Russian Court Rules Meta an ‘Extremist’ Organization

Russia, Meta, Facebook

A Russian court has labeled Meta Platforms an “extremist organization” but said that ruling only applies to the already-outlawed Facebook and Instagram platforms, and not Meta’s messenger service WhatsApp.

As Reuters reported Monday (March 21), Moscow’s Tverskoi District Court upheld a suit filed by Russian state prosecutors aimed at banning Meta’s activities on Russian territory.

The decision is set to be enforced immediately, and is the latest in the ongoing battle between Russia and the world’s social media giants in response to President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine last month.

Meta attorney Victoria Shagina had argued said in court Monday (March 21) that Meta was not carrying out extremist activities and was against Russophobia.

Reuters noted that the implications of the label are not clear. “Extremist” is the type of label applied to groups like ISIS and the Taliban, but later also given to the Jehovah’s Witnesses and imprisoned government critic Alexei Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation.

Read more: TikTok Stops Livestreaming in Russia Over Fake News’ Law

“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,” the court said.

However, it was not clear how WhatsApp would be able to keep functioning in Russia, given that the court has put Meta’s commercial activities on hold. According to Reuters, analysis of mobile internet traffic Monday showed that the messaging service Telegram, already popular in Russia, has surpassed WhatsApp in use during the past few weeks.

The Russian government blocked access to Facebook as part of its information crackdown.

In response, Meta said it planned to pause all advertising in the nation, and said it wouldn’t sell ads to Russian businesses.

The battle over social media in Russia goes beyond Meta. Earlier this month, TikTok announced plans to bar livestreaming in Russia because of the country’s “fake news” law, designed to silence dissent and restrict information on the invasion of Ukraine.