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Instagram will go dark in Russia, expanding the country’s media vacuum

Putin mobile phone in Russia
ReutersS/Maxim Shemetov
Eyes everywhere.
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Instagram will be cut off to its 80 million Russian users starting on March 14—a preemptive ban after the social media platform’s parent, Meta, which also owns Facebook, decided to waive its hate speech rules and allow besieged Ukrainians to share their fury and despair at the Russian invasion of their country.

Facebook and Twitter already have been blocked in Russia. Roskomnadzor, the Russian agency that monitors and censors media in the country, cited 26 cases of “discrimination against Russian media and information resources by Facebook” in its ruling on March 4.

The Instagram ban is part of two intersecting patterns: On one hand, more Western companies are exiting Russia as Vladimir Putin wages war. On the other, Russians are becoming ever more isolated, bereft of information, and subject to the messaging of a single regime.

Russia’s media vacuum

A host of media companies that were not subject to state control have been blocked since the February 24 invasion, including the UK’s BBC and Germany’s Deutsche Well. Even before the bans, the news diet of Russian citizens was becoming restrictive to the point of complete dislocation from the truth.

While thousands of Russians have risked major consequences, including prison, for protesting the war in Ukraine, many others simply don’t believe it is happening.

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