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Russia blocks access to Facebook

Russia blocked Facebook on Friday citing "discrimination" against state-sponsored media. Here a smartphone user in Moscow watches a Facebook clip of U.S. President Joe Biden on Friday, Feb. 25, 2022.
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Russia blocked Facebook on Friday citing "discrimination" against state-sponsored media. Here a smartphone user in Moscow watches a Facebook clip of U.S. President Joe Biden on Friday, Feb. 25, 2022.

Updated March 4, 2022 at 4:30 PM ET

Russia cut off access to Facebook on Friday, capping a week in which the tech giant heeded European requests to block Russian-backed media outlets in the European Union and Britain and made the outlets' content harder to find in the rest of the world.

Parent company Meta says it is rushing to try to restore Facebook's service in the country.

Roskomnadzor, the Russian communications authority, cited 26 cases of "discrimination" against Russian media, including recent restrictions of state-backed outlets such as RT (formerly Russia Today), Sputnik, RIA and others.

As the U.S. and the EU imposed a crush of sanctions on Russia, European officials required Russian state-backed channels to be removed from television broadcasts and social media. In addition to Meta, which also owns Instagram, platforms including Twitter, YouTube, TikTok and Telegram have complied.

Meta President of Global Affairs Nick Clegg responded on Twitter to the Russian ban of Facebook, saying it will mean that "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."

Social platforms including Facebook and Twitter have faced intermittent disruptions in Russia in recent days. Late on Friday, some users in Russia logged on to Facebook to see the message: "This page isn't available right now." Instagram still functioned. But Twitter appeared to be down.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki called Russia's ban on Facebook part of an effort to prevent Russians from getting independent information.

"There are concerning steps they have taken to crack down on any form of information being shared with the public," Psaki told reporters, noting other forms of censorship and threats of fines for journalists. "This is a pattern," she said.

"We are deeply concerned about this and concerned about the threat on freedom of speech in the country," she said.

Russia's block of Facebook comes as federal authorities also cut access to more independent or critical media outlets, including the BBC's Russian service and the U.S.-funded Radio Liberty.

Russian lawmakers on Friday passed a law that criminalizes the spread of "false information" about Russia's military and its operations. International news outlets, including the BBC, CNN and Bloomberg News, said they would pause work in Russia to evaluate the situation.

Editor's note: Meta pays NPR to license NPR content. Apple and Microsoft are among NPR's financial supporters.

NPR's Charles Maynes and Roberta Rampton contributed to this report.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.