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5 Jan, 2018 17:32

Instagram quietly lifts bizarre ban of Moscow’s popular Botanical Garden page

Instagram quietly lifts bizarre ban of Moscow’s popular Botanical Garden page

Without any notice, Instagram on Friday blocked access to Moscow's Botanical Garden page which has more than 297,000 followers. The account was unblocked some 10 hours later without any explanation.

“A catastrophe, friends!” is how the Botanical Garden’s press office sounded the news Thursday after its account was blocked without any explanation from the social network.

Moscow State University's Botanical Garden page is said to be “the most popular account among those of other botanical gardens in the world and all of Russia’s landmark attractions with more than 297,000 followers,” the statement said.

The head of the Garden, Aleksey Reteyum, called the move “a flagrant outrage,” saying, the entire administration is “in shock.” Apart from scientific and educational work, the Botanical Gardens has turned into “an important cultural center of Moscow social life, with numerous exhibitions, concerts and master classes,” Reteyum said, highlighting that it is a noncommercial entity. “Our Instagram informs our visitors of all that, and its blocking is critical, literally fatal for [the] garden’s existence!”

The director of the Botanical Garden told RIA Novosti the account was blocked without any prior notice. When the Garden’s team asked why, Instagram demanded some legal documents. “We’re a structural unit of the MSU [Moscow State University]. We don’t have any sort of some special documents. There’s the statute of MSU, but it’s in open access,” Reteyum said.

Some ten hours later, however, its page was unblocked. Instagram did not provide any public explanation for the brief blockage.

While the Garden’s administration fears its appeals to the Instagram support team have been in vain, Russia’s media watchdog, Roskomnadzor, requested an explanation from the corporation. "Dear @instagram, would you be so kind to explain the reasons of blocking the account?” it wrote in a tweet.

Nestled in between residential buildings and office blocks, the Botanical Gardens is a popular sanctum, with locals enjoying an island of greenery and a quiet haven in the heart of the inner city north of Moscow. The green oasis welcomes some 7,500 visitors over a weekend, offering year-round exhibitions in its greenhouses and gardens.