Russia cracks down on dissenting media, blocks Facebook, Twitter

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GBNEWS24DESK//

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday intensified a crackdown on media outlets and individuals who fail to hew to the Kremlin line on Russia’s war in Ukraine, blocking Facebook and Twitter and signing into law a bill that criminalizes the intentional spreading of what Moscow deems to be “fake” reports.

The moves against the social media giants follow blocks imposed on the BBC, the U.S. government-funded Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, German broadcaster Deutsche Welle and Latvia-based website Meduza.

The government’s sweeping action against the foreign outlets that publish news in Russian seeks to establish even tighter controls over what information the domestic audience sees about the invasion of Ukraine, reports AP.

The state communications watchdog Roskomnadzor said it cut access to Twitter and Facebook in line with a decision by the prosecutor general’s office. The watchdog has previously accused Twitter of failing to delete the content banned by Russian authorities and slowed down access to it.

Twitter said in a statement Friday afternoon that while the company is “aware of reports” that its platform is blocked in Russia, it has not been able to confirm whether this is the case.

The bill, quickly rubber-stamped by both houses of the Kremlin-controlled parliament and signed by Putin, imposes prison sentences of up to 15 years for those spreading information that goes against the Russian government’s narrative on the war.

The question regarding Russia is no longer “what we do to stop disinformation,” former U.S. ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul said on Friday. “The question has to be how do we promote information inside Russia — and I don’t have the answer.”

Multiple outlets said they would pause their work inside Russia to evaluate the situation. Among them, CNN said it would stop broadcasting in Russia while Bloomberg and the BBC said they would temporarily suspend the work of their journalists there.

Russian authorities have repeatedly and falsely decried reports of Russian military setbacks or civilian deaths in Ukraine as “fake” news. State media outlets refer to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as a “special military operation” rather than a war or an invasion.

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