BOSTON (AP) — Russia’s increasingly strict online censorship measures have paradoxically exposed major shortcomings in the Kremlin’s efforts to make the Russian internet a powerful tool of surveillance and social control akin to China’s so-called Great Firewall.
Any Russian with a modicum of tech smarts can circumvent the Kremlin’s attempt to starve the population of information.
That has put foreign providers of internet bandwidth and associated services in a bind. They face public pressure to punish the Russian state for its war on Ukraine.
But they are wary of helping stifle a free flow of information that can counter Kremlin disinformation.
Earlier in the week, Meta spokesman Andy Stone conveyed a company statement saying it had “made allowances for forms of political expression that would normally violate our rules on violent speech, such as ‘death to the Russian invaders’.”
Stone’s statement followed a Reuters report that Meta was making a temporary change to its hate speech policy to allow Facebook and Instagram users in some countries to call for violence against Russians and Russian soldiers in the context of the Ukraine invasion.
The statement stressed that the company “still won’t allow credible calls for violence against Russian civilians.”
Russian has already blocked access to Facebook, limited access to Twitter and criminalized the intentional spreading of what Moscow deems to be “fake” reports, as part of President Vladimir Putin’s crackdown on social media and news outlets like the BBC.