Facebook slammed for blocking protest event page at Russia's request

That's a big NYET to you, with love from Zuck

Russian political dissidents voiced their displeasure with Facebook on Monday after the social network blocked an event page promoting a demonstration on behalf of jailed opposition leader Aleksei Navalny.

The page in question was reportedly blocked at the request of Roskomnadzor, Russia's state internet policing body.

"We were very surprised and very disappointed because of the speed with which Facebook has satisfied an ordinary request of Roskomnadzor without even contacting the organizers of the event," a spokesman for Navalny, who is barred from using either phones or the internet, told the New York Times.

A spokesman for Roskomnadzor told the paper that Facebook had blocked the page because it promoted an "unsanctioned mass event," a term that under Russian law can apply to any gathering of three or more people.

Past opposition demonstrations have been considerably larger than that. At the height of anti-Putin activism in 2011, some rallies drew crowds as large as 100,000 people, with much of the organizing taking place via Facebook.

The Putin administration's reaction has been to pass a series of laws restricting online speech, including requiring any blogger with an audience of more than 3,000 to register with the government.

Putin himself has even gone as far as to claim that the entire internet is a "CIA-controlled project."

Russian bigwigs have reportedly also taken a heavy hand in running the nation's internet companies. In April, Pavel Durov, founder of VKontakte, Russia's largest social network, claimed that he had been pushed out of his own company by oligarchs who now control the site – which may explain why dissidents prefer to use US-run Facebook to do their organizing.

On Monday, Durov slammed Facebook to the NYT, saying Mark Zuckerberg's firm had "no guts and no principles."

Organizers of the pro-Navalny rally have apparently started a second Facebook page promoting the January 15 event, which so far has not been blocked.

When contacted by The Register, Facebook declined to comment on the matter. ®

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