Russia vs. Meta: A strained relationship just got more complicated

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has led to a tense back-and-forth between Russian authorities and Meta.

The relationship between Meta and Russia has been a hot topic since the 2016 elections — when Russian agents influenced 126m users on Facebook by sharing inflammatory posts.

Russia vs. Meta: A strained relationship just got more complicated

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, and subsequent moves by Meta have complicated matters further.

Last week…

… Meta announced it would temporarily allow language on Facebook and Instagram that would usually be considered hate speech, per Reuters.

The policy…

  • Applies to language directed at Russian soldiers in the context of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine (e.g., “death to the Russian invaders”)
  • Is limited to Ukraine and a handful of countries in close proximity to Russia, including Estonia, Hungary, and Poland

Nick Clegg, Meta’s president of global affairs, said the change was made to protect Ukrainian citizens’ rights to speech as an act of self defense, and to allow them to express resistance to invading military forces.

Russia’s response…

… was swift and hostile. Per CNN, a Russian investigative agency filed a criminal case against Meta, accusing the company of calls for violence against Russian citizens, and moved to label Meta an extremist organization.

Russian authorities, who banned Facebook in the country on March 4, announced it would begin restricting access to Instagram as well.

Putin is also reportedly weighing a ban on WhatsApp, Meta’s messaging platform, which is used by over 80% of Russians to communicate.

What’s next?

On Meta’s end, the bans could result in a ~$2B revenue hit, with Russia making up ~1.5% of the company’s advertising sales.

More importantly, banning Meta’s platforms has crimped Russians’ ability to get information — ~70m Russians use Facebook and ~63m use Instagram.

How do Russian citizens feel about all this? A recent study analyzing sentiment on Twitter among Russian speakers found a lower “happiness score” than at the beginning of the pandemic.

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Topics: International

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