Instagram users in Russia were notified that Instagram will cease to operate in Russia from midnight on Sunday, and people were told to move their photos and videos from the platform before it was shut down. This does not come as a surprise, as Russia had restricted access to Instagram earlier on March 11 and initiated a case against Meta.
This brings the question, where will the people go? According to Roskomnadzor, Russia’s communication regulator, people were encouraged to go to Russia’s very own “competitive internet platforms,” whose popularity tanked due to the rising demand for Instagram and Facebook.
“We need to ensure the psychological health of citizens, especially children, and adolescents, to protect them from harassment and insults online,” Roskomnadzor said, adding that the decision to allow calls for violence against Russians was a breach of international law.
The sight of multiple Russian influencers and users biding teary farewells to their fans or scrolling through Instagram in the final hours was common yesterday. Olga Buzova, a Russian Reality TV star, wrote that she was writing her farewell post and “crying.” Fashion blogger Karina Nigay, on the other hand, wrote that she was still “in a state of resentment and nowhere near a state of acceptance.”
Once again, the Russian invasion of Ukraine is to blame for this. The number of casualties and losses pile up and Russian troops continue to advance in the besieged nation. In response, economic sanctions continue to be imposed on Russia (regarding which Russia has sought China’s aid).
Companies have stood in solidarity against the invasion as well, slowly isolating Russia from the rest of the world by ceasing services, shipments, or sales, or pulling the plug on Russia’s state-funded news outlets. This move to ban Instagram is sure to isolate Russia further, given that the Russian market had nearly 60 million Instagram users in 2021 (about 40% of the country’s population). It is also a major source of revenue for Russian users and creators.
“The Russian government has decided to block Instagram in Russia, cutting off millions of people from loved ones and friends around the world,” Instagram head Adam Mosseri said in a video response. “We know that over 80% of people in Russia on Instagram follow an account from outside of Russia. The situation is terrifying, and we are trying to do all we can to keep people safe.”
This development also comes soon after Meta made temporary changes to its hate policy, allowing users to post messages such as “death to the Russian invaders” and call for the death of Russian President Vladimir Putin. In response, Russian authorities opened a criminal investigation against Meta. They have already blocked Facebook in the country.