Ukraine crisis: Russia to punish ‘fake’ war news, blocks Facebook, Twitter including BBC and CNN


Guwahati: On Friday (March 4), Russia’s communication regulator Roskomnadzor blocked Facebook for allegedly restricting the dissemination of news content by state-owned media channels.

As per reports, Roskomnadzor claimed that the social media giant had ‘discriminated’ against Russian media on 26 occasions since October 2020. It further alleged that Facebook has been imposing restrictions on State-controlled media outfits such as Russia Today (RT), Sputnik and RIA. Citing these reasons, the communication regulator blocked the services of Facebook.

The social media giant has over 7.5 million users in Russia, as of 2021, and over 122.2 million users across Instagram, Messenger and Whatsapp. Social media giants have been under immense pressure to take action against Russia after it launched a full-scale invasion in Ukraine on February 24, 2022.

Facebook issues statement, claims efforts underway to restore services in Russia

President of Global Affairs at Facebook’s parent company Meta, Nick Clegg, informed that Facebook will do everything to ensure its services are restored in Russia. He stated, “Soon millions of ordinary Russians will find themselves cut off from reliable information, deprived of their everyday ways of connecting with family and friends and silenced from speaking out. We will continue to do everything we can to restore our services so they remain available to people to safely and securely express themselves and organize for action.”

In a blog post on Friday, Meta stated, “Despite the Russian government’s announcement that they will be blocking Facebook, we are working to keep our services available to the greatest extent possible. However, due to the difficulties of operating in Russia at this time, ads targeting people in Russia will be paused, and advertisers within Russia will no longer be able to create or run ads anywhere in the world, including within Russia.”

On February 26, the Head of Security Policy at Meta, Nathaniel Gleicher, announced that Facebook would stop Russia’s State-controlled media from running ads or monetising their content. The Russian government had earlier limited access to the social media giant partially for turning down a request to allow ‘independent fact checking’ by State-controlled media outlets.

Russia enacts ‘fake news law’, global media suspends reporting

The Russian government, led by President Vladimir Putin, has enacted a new ‘fake news law’ that has provisions to jail journalists for up to 15 years for publishing ‘fake news.’ The law also imposes fines against those calling for sanctions on the country for invading Ukraine.

Russia has also objected to the use of the word ‘war’ to describe the invasion of Ukraine. It has instead directed media channels to use ‘special military operation’. The new move by the Russian government is aimed at censoring independent journalism and intimidating journalists with retaliatory measures.

Keeping the situation in mind, global media outlets have temporarily suspended reporting from Russia. These organisations include the BBC, CNN, CBC, CBS News and Bloomberg News. Many news outlets also removed the bylines of Russia-based journalists, after assessing threats to their security.

In its defence, Russian communication regulator Roskomnadzor had claimed that false information was being peddled in the country on the behest of its enemies, including the US and its Western European allies.

“We have with great regret decided to temporarily suspend our news gathering inside Russia. The change to the criminal code, which seems designed to turn any independent reporter into a criminal purely by association, makes it impossible to continue any semblance of normal journalism inside the country,” Bloomberg Editor-in-Chief John Micklethwait remarked on March 4.

BBC Director-General, Tim Davie, said: “It leaves us no other option than to temporarily suspend the work of all BBC News journalists and their support staff within the Russian Federation while we assess the full implications of this unwelcome development. Our BBC News service in Russian will continue to operate from outside Russia.”

“Our top priorities are the safety of our employees and covering this important story fairly and fully. Being in Moscow, freely able to talk to officials and capture the mood, is key to that mission,” reported Dow Jones spokesperson Steve Severinghaus.

The international news outlet, The New York Times, had attempted to defend fake viral stories under the pretext that it is a part of warfare tactics and crucial to keep the morale of Ukranian soldiers high.

“Viral stories like the Ghost of Kyiv — a Ukrainian pilot who supposedly single-handedly shot down several Russian fighter jets — are of questionable veracity. But they’re a key part of Ukraine’s war plan, experts say, as it tries to keep morale high,” it had tweeted on Friday (March 4).

(Inputs from Agencies)