Russia's financial monitoring agency adds Meta to 'extremists' list

A Moscow court in June rejected an appeal by Meta - the owner of Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp - after it was found guilty of "extremist activity" in Russia in March.

 Facebook's new rebrand logo Meta is seen on smartpone in front of displayed logo of Facebook, Messenger, Intagram, Whatsapp and Oculus in this illustration picture taken October 28, 2021 (photo credit: DADO RUVIC/REUTERS ILLUSTRATION)
Facebook's new rebrand logo Meta is seen on smartpone in front of displayed logo of Facebook, Messenger, Intagram, Whatsapp and Oculus in this illustration picture taken October 28, 2021
(photo credit: DADO RUVIC/REUTERS ILLUSTRATION)

Russia's financial monitoring agency, Rosfinmonitoring, has added US tech giant Meta Platforms Inc. to its list of "terrorists and extremists," Russian news agencies reported on Tuesday.

A Moscow court in June rejected an appeal by Meta - the owner of Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp - after it was found guilty of "extremist activity" in Russia in March. In court, Meta's lawyer at the time said Meta was not carrying out extremist activity and was against Russophobia.

Meta did not reply to an emailed request for comment on Tuesday.

Rosfinmonitoring's list concerns "organizations and individuals with regard to which there is information about their involvement in extremist activities or terrorism."

Moscow has restricted access to Facebook and Instagram, although many Russian users still access them using virtual private networks (VPNs), demand for which skyrocketed as some Western internet services were blocked in March.

State communications regulator Roskomnadzor has updated its list of banned VPNs, TASS news agency reported on Tuesday. It began trying to block VPNs in 2021, though many continue to work.

Officials have regularly said Meta's "extremist" tag does not extend to its WhatsApp messenger service.

"Rosfinmonitoring's decision to put Meta on the list of extremist organizations in no way changes the situation for users of Meta's social networks, users of Meta products are not breaking the law," senior lawmaker Andrey Klishas wrote on Telegram on Tuesday.

"Rosfinmonitoring's decision to put Meta on the list of extremist organizations in no way changes the situation for users of Meta's social networks, users of Meta products are not breaking the law,"

Senior lawmaker Andrey Klishas

"There are no restrictions in relation to WhatsApp messenger," he added.

Facebook and Instagram users are being warned

Lawyers and digital rights groups have, however, reported that Facebook and Instagram users are being warned over some posts.

Human rights lawyer Pavel Chikov has warned that simply displaying the Instagram and Facebook logos, or advertising on those networks, could be deemed illegal under Russia's criminal code.