The Russian government moved to “partially restrict” Facebook access in the country on Friday after Russia’s ministry of communications accused the social network of unlawful censorship.
In a statement, ministry officials said Facebook (FB) had committed human rights violations and “violated the rights and freedoms of Russian citizens” when the social network on Thursday allegedly clamped down on several Russian media outlets on its platform.
The list allegedly includes the official Facebook accounts of RIA Novosti, Zvezda TV, Lenta.ru and Gazeta.ru, according to the statement.
In response to the allegations, Meta global affairs president Nick Clegg said on Friday that Russia had ordered the company to “stop the independent fact-checking and labelling” of the four Russian outlets.
“We refused,” Clegg said in a statement. “Ordinary Russians are using our apps to express themselves and organize for action. We want them to continue to make their voices heard, share what’s happening, and organize” through Meta’s various platforms.
The Russian action highlights how the war in Ukraine has put social media platforms in a precarious position, focusing global attention on their ability to moderate content ranging from graphic on-the-ground reports about the conflict to misinformation and propaganda.
The Russian statement said Facebook had violated Federal Law No. 272-FZ, a law that it said governs human rights and the rights of Russian citizens. The statement also claimed Facebook had censored Russian media nearly two dozen times since October 2020.
The extent of the restrictions was not immediately clear, nor their impact on Facebook’s operations in Russia or that of Facebook’s parent company, Meta.
In recent months, the Russian government has slapped US tech companies with a string of fines over what it claims is their failure to remove illegal content from their platforms. Google, Twitter and Meta have all been targeted by the fines.