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Facebook Takes a Side in Russia's Invasion of Ukraine

Social media giant is among companies that announced aggressive measures to curb Russian propaganda after Moscow invaded Ukraine.
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Faced with the refusal of the tech giants to submit to its wishes, Russia, whose invasion of Ukraine is unanimously criticized throughout the world, has decided to use the stick. 

The government now blocks access to Facebook in the country for violating local rules.

In a statement in Russian, the government agency in charge of media and communications supervision, Roskomnadzor, lists 26 cases of violations of local laws by Facebook  (FB) .

In particular, the agency accuses the company founded by Mark Zuckerberg, renamed Meta Platforms in October, of discriminating against Russian state media to which Facebook has restricted access to its platforms since the first Russian shootings in Ukraine.

"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," Nick Clegg, president, global affairs at Meta reacted in a statement posted on his Twitter account.

"We 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."

The move comes after the Russian parliament passed a law on Friday banning the dissemination of "false information" against the Russian military, according to reports.

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The blocking comes after aggressive moves by Facebook and all of its platforms - Whatsapp, Instagram, Facebook - to restrict Russian propaganda.

Facebook, like Youtube (Google)  (GOOGL)  and Twitter  (TWTR) have also blocked the Russian media channels RT and Sputnik in Europe.

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Facebook said this week that it has detected a disinformation network running accounts, pages, groups and communities targeting Ukraine on social media.

"We took down a network run by people in Russia and Ukraine targeting Ukraine for violating our policy against coordinated inauthentic behavior," the company explained in a blog post. "They ran websites posing as independent news entities and created fake personas across social media platforms including Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, Telegram and also Russian Odnoklassniki and VK."

Facebook said that the company has uncovered, in 48 hours, a relatively small network of about 40 accounts, pages and groups on Facebook and Instagram. They were operated from Russia and Ukraine and targeted people in Ukraine across multiple social media platforms and through their own websites. 

The modus operandi of this propaganda/disinformation operation consists in using fake accounts and operating fictitious personas and brands across the internet — including on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, Telegram, Odnoklassniki and VK — to appear more authentic in an apparent attempt to withstand scrutiny by platforms and researchers, the company said.

Besides Facebook, Google and Twitter, Apple  (AAPL)  has also taken anti-Russian measures. The iPhone maker has suspended sales in the country.

The Russian war in Ukraine has led to a wave of protests and demonstrations in capitals around the world and even in Russia. These movements have often been organized on social media.

Russia continued its broad offensive in Ukraine on Saturday, pummeling cities and towns into rubble, and a limited cease-fire for the besieged southern city of Mariupol, a coastal city, ended nearly as soon as it began. Ukrainian officials said Russia has violated ceasefire agreement.

The Russian targeting of civilian infrastructure has set off a mass exodus of panicked people from cities including Kyiv, the capital, and created increasingly dire conditions for those who remain, The New York Times reports. About half a million people in Mariupol were entering their third day without heat, electricity or water on Saturday.