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Moscow blocks access to Instagram for about 80 million users in Russia

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Access to Instagram was eliminated for nearly all Russian users by early Monday after connectivity began to sag Sunday night. File Photo by LoboStudioHamburg/Pixabay
Access to Instagram was eliminated for nearly all Russian users by early Monday after connectivity began to sag Sunday night. File Photo by LoboStudioHamburg/Pixabay

March 14 (UPI) -- Russian regulators cut off access to Instagram for about 80 million users on Monday, arguing that the social media platform was allowing posts that provoke acts of violence against Russian troops in Ukraine.

Roskomnadzor, the country's communication regulator, said on Friday that Instagram would be blocked after its parent company Meta said it would allow Ukrainians to continue posting sometimes violent messages in opposition to the Russian military.

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Access to Instagram was eliminated for nearly all Russian users by early Monday after connectivity began to sag Sunday night, according to data from Internet monitoring company GlobalCheck.

"Meta Platforms Inc. made an unprecedented decision by allowing the posting of information containing calls for violence against Russian citizens on its social networks Facebook and Instagram," Roskomnadzor said in a statement.

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"Messages are circulating on the Instagram social network encouraging and provoking violent acts against Russians."

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Roskomnadzor previously blocked access to Facebook and allowed only limited access to Twitter in Russia after the companies had restricted state-owned media.

Russian influencers who depend on the platform for income had posted emotional messages before the ban.

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In one Instagram post before the ban, reality star Olga Buzova wrote that she'd shared all aspects of her life on the platform for the past decade.

"I have said this many times, and now I want to say more! I love you and am grateful for your love and support for so many years," Buzova wrote. "Now I am writing a post and crying. I hope this is not true, and we will stay here."

Kseniya Sobchak, a Russian TV anchor and daughter of the first democratically elected mayor of St. Petersburg, criticized the war and urged followers to install a Virtual Private Network -- which fools websites into thinking the user is coming from another country -- to continue accessing Instagram.

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"This is a process of mass emigration, in which talented people leave the country, and the country suffers economic, cultural and political damage," she wrote.

Meta said last week that it would continue to allow posts about the Ukraine war after Russian investigators said they'd opened a criminal case over the company's hate speech policy.

Nick Clegg, Meta president for global affairs, said the company's policies are focused on protecting people's rights to speech "as an expression of self-defense in reaction to a military invasion of their country."

"If we applied our standard content policies without any adjustments, we would now be removing content from ordinary Ukrainians expressing their resistance and fury at the invading military forces, which would rightly be viewed as unacceptable," Clegg said in a statement.

Scenes from the Russian war on Ukraine

European Union leaders attend a summit at the Chateau de Versailles near Paris on March 11, 2022. Photo by the European Union/ UPI | License Photo

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