Russia opened a criminal case against Meta Platforms on Friday after the social media company changed its rules to allow users to incite violence against Russian soldiers involved in the invasion of Ukraine.
Meta is the parent company of Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp, one of Russia’s most popular messaging applications.
Russia has also moved to designate Meta as an “extremist organisation” for allowing posts such as “death to the Russian invaders.”
Russia’s Investigative Committee, which reports directly to President Vladimir Putin, said on Friday:
A criminal case has been initiated … in connection with illegal calls for murder and violence against citizens of the Russian Federation by employees of the American company Meta, which owns the social networks Facebook and Instagram.
Russian prosecutors said the move by Facebook could violate articles of the Russian criminal law against public calls for extremist activities. It said:
Such actions of the (Meta) company’s management not only form an idea that terrorist activity is permissible, but are aimed at inciting hatred and enmity towards the citizens of the Russian Federation.
The State prosecutor’s office has called for access to Instagram to be blocked and to recognise Meta as an “extremist organisation and ban its activities on the territory of Russia”.
Several Russian regional governors reportedly deleted their Instagram accounts on Friday.