Russia puts Facebook on alert after ruthlessly banning Telegram

Russian President Vladimir Putin. Photo: Sasha Mordovets/ Getty Images.
  • Facebook could be banned in Russia unless it complies with government demands.
  • Russia’s media watchdog wants Facebook to move its Russian user database to Russia, remove “illegal” content, and explain why some accounts have been deleted.
  • Russia has been ruthless in banning Telegram this week.

Russia has been so determined to shut down messaging app Telegram that it blocked Google’s and Amazon’s cloud services for the whole country to achieve a lockout. Now, the Kremlin has warned that Facebook could be next.

The boss of Russia’s state media regulator Roskomnadzor said Facebook must move its Russian user database to Russia and remove “all illegal content” or risk being banned.

Alexander Zharov also wants Facebook to explain why some Russian accounts have been deleted. The company has, for example,banned more than 270 accounts linked to the Internet Research Agency, the Russian troll factory with ties to the Kremlin.

In an interview with Russian newspaper Izvestia, cited by state-owned news agency TASS, Zharov said Facebook is already “far behind” schedule in granting the government’s requests. This is despite two meetings a year taking place between the two parties, the latest of which happened in February, according to TASS.

He warned: “In case something fails to be implemented or the Russian government is not notified of their intention to take the necessary action, then the issue of a block will definitely arise.”

Facebook will have taken note of how Russia has dealt with messaging service Telegram, which was banned after it refused to comply with a court order to grant state security services access to its users’ encrypted messages. Russia’s efforts to access Telegram come amid fears terrorists are using it as a bolthole to plot attacks.

On Tuesday, Roskomnadzor said it blocked IP addresses owned by Google and Amazon after it was discovered that messaging service Telegram had been using their cloud services to reach users. Any other service provided through Google and Amazon servers was also taken out as a result.

Telegram CEO Pavel Durov said the ban had been ineffective. “We haven’t seen a significant drop in user engagement so far, since Russians tend to bypass the ban with VPNs and proxies,” he said in a blog. Some 7% of Telegram’s userbase is in Russia.

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