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Russian court deems Instagram and Facebook as 'extremist', WhatsApp spared

Ruling says it doesn't disseminate info as widely but some suspect it's because of the app's popularity

Meta app's Instagram and Facebook, but not Whatsapp, were found guilty of extremist activity on Monday in Moscow's Tver Court following Meta's decision to allow expressions condoning or encouraging violence towards Russia from within the Ukraine.

The ban on the social networks has already been in place since last week, when the investigation into whether or not the platforms were "extremist" began.

"The decision does not apply to the activities of Meta's messenger WhatsApp, due to its lack of functionality for the public dissemination of information," Moscow's Tverskoy district court said in a Telegram post.

Several Russian analysts have said they suspect WhatsApp was spared because it is so popular, and blocking it could mean massive backlash from locals.

The messaging service claimed 84 million monthly users in Russia in January 2022, according to Statista. A few weeks ago usage of rival messaging service Telegram surpassed WhatsApp as the most used messaging service as residents feared WhatsApp would suffer the same fate as Instagram and others platforms.

Russian Instagram went dark in the UK last week following the March 11 order from communications regulator Roskomnadzor. Facebook had already been cut off and Twitter limited. The watchdog sent demands to Youtube last week to stop "discrimination" against Russia, and accusing them of being a "tool in the anti-Russian information war."

The Prosecutor General's Office and KGB successor the Federal Security service (FSB) believes that Meta's actions are directed against Russia and therefore the two apps deemed as "extremist" are prohibited from operating or opening branches and other commercial activity in Russia.

Additionally, Roskomnadzor said Russian media must label Meta and its social networks as forbidden and must not display associated logos.

Citizens and organizations will not be charged with extremism for simply using Facebook and Instagram, presumably through a VPN, reported Russian news agency TASS. Although surely one wouldn't want to be seen publicly flouting the rules in Russia in a war-time environment.

The use of virtual private networks (VPNs) to mask a user's location and IP address, surged by 2,692 percent the day the Instagram ban went live. ®

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