The Net Freedoms Project, a Russian human rights organization, said designating Meta as an extremist organization could ban Russian citizens from using it and prevent companies from displaying the logos of Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp.
People may also be prohibited from sending money to the company, for example by buying advertisements.
Instagram and WhatsApp are extremely popular in Russia, used by businesses and individuals alike to share messages and information.
Russian state media reported that WhatsApp could be excluded from the ban because it is a communication service.
The move came after Facebook said it would allow users to make death threats against Vladimir Putin and call for violence against Russian soldiers, in a rare reversal of a hate speech policy.
The rules of the social network will be applied to users from Eastern European countries, including Russia, Poland and Ukraine.
Calls for violence against Russian citizens will remain prohibited. Moderators in the region have been briefed on the policy in recent days. This also applies to Instagram, which is also owned by Meta.
“Following the Russian invasion of Ukraine, we temporarily allowed forms of political expression that would normally violate our rules, such as violent speech such as ‘death to Russian invaders’. We still will not allow credible calls for violence against Russian civilians,” a Meta spokesperson said.
Calls for the death of Mr. Putin and Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko will be allowed as long as they do not contain two indicators that a threat is credible, such as a location and a method.
Meta told moderators that the change was a “politics-minded” allowance.
Facebook was banned in Russia last week in apparent retaliation for blocking the accounts of public broadcasters RT and Sputnik in the UK and EU. Twitter and YouTube have also restricted accounts.
The communications regulator said it had identified 26 cases of “discrimination” against Russian media by Facebook.
Facebook’s changes apply to Armenia, Azerbaijan, Estonia, Georgia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Russia, Slovakia and Ukraine, according to the emails viewed by Reuters.
Facebook downloads in Russia have soared in recent days despite the ban, with millions of people in the country using virtual private networks to circumvent Russian internet controls.
Installs have increased from around 13,000 a day two weeks ago to more than 22,000 in recent days, according to analytics firm Appfigures.
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This notice was published: 2022-03-11 19:08:59