Russia blasts Facebook’s ‘totalitarianism & censorship’ after 270 accounts banned for no reason
Moscow has chided Facebook and demanded an explanation from the US State Department, after the social media giant banned media and personal accounts that violated no rules but are purportedly linked to a Russian “troll factory.”
“It is clear that this is part of the anti-Russian campaign in which the media landscape is being cleansed of alternative sources of information, under the pretext of Russian interference in the 2016 election,” Maria Zakharova, spokesperson for the Russian Foreign Ministry, said during a press conference in Moscow. “It is odd that a company that celebrates openness is resorting to totalitarian methods of control and censorship on the basis of dubious criteria.”
Unlike previous banning sprees, Wednesday’s deletion of 270 accounts and pages from Facebook and Instagram was “not based on the content” and included predominantly Russian-language “commentary on domestic and international political issues, the promotion of Russian culture and tourism as well as debate on more everyday issues.”
The only apparent criterion was any connection to the Internet Research Agency (IRA), a supposedly state-funded propaganda team. The banned pages included Federal Research Agency, a news outlet that Facebook said was linked to the IRA, and even legitimate pages, such as one belonging to the Moscow mayor’s economic development office.
Justifying the decision, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said that those behind the accounts “acted to deceive people and manipulate people around the world, and we don’t want them on Facebook anywhere.”
Zakharova said banned Russian users and pages would appreciate if Facebook handed over any information on what laws or user agreement terms they had violated.
The foreign ministry representative added that she understood that Facebook is “in a difficult position and is being pressured to show loyalty to the US political establishment,” but encouraged it to demonstrate its commitment to “democracy and freedom of speech.”