Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed a major bill into law “criminalizing fake news about the Russian Armed Forces and calls for anti-Russian sanctions,” according to state media outlet, RIA. Additionally, Russia’s department focused on telecommunications and censorship, Roskomnadzor, confirmed the country would be banning access to Facebook in response to Meta’s recent decision to block media outlets like RT News.
While news is still incoming, this sweeping decision is already confirmed to extend to many major Western social media platforms including Twitter, as well as news sites such as BBC and app stores from Apple and Google. The escalation comes after days of ominous pushback from Putin’s government against negative coverage of the country’s invasion of Ukraine, including most recently the limiting of access to certain Wikipedia pages.
Unclear how extensive or long it will last — In an official statement released via Twitter, Meta’s president of global affairs, Nick Clegg, wrote “"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,” adding that the company “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.”
Major ramifications — As NBC News notes, the dramatic move will affect citizens’ ability to receive accurate news and communications; an estimated 70 million Russians utilize Facebook, or around half the nation’s population. All that said, New York Times’ tech reporter Mike Isaac notes that this latest decree from Putin does not currently include Meta’s other apps like Instagram and WhatsApp, “two services which are much more popular in the region.”
More restrictions to come — Apart from Facebook’s censorship, the decision to limit access to Twitter hints at much larger bans to come from the Russian government, potentially including outlets like YouTube. The new laws, which the NYT reports could go into effect as early as tomorrow, include punishments like a 15 year prison sentence for spreading “false information” like calling the Russian invasion a “war.” According to Putin’s regime, it’s simply a “special military operation” in Ukraine.