Feb 16, 2018

Instagram yields to Russian censorship demands

Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Instagram has given in to Russian internet censors by blocking access to posts that reference allegations against leaders of the Russian Federation by prominent opposition leader Alexei Navalny, the BBC reports.

Why it matters: Instagram's decision contrasts that of video rival YouTube, which Russian agency officials say has not yet complied with its demand to remove Navalny's videos. But it's important to consider that the content Instagram was asked to take down was not the exact same as YouTube’s. Theirs was from the Navalny's escort, while YouTube’s is actual content from Nalvany himself.

According to an Instagram spokesperson:

“When governments believe that something on the Internet violates their laws, they may contact companies and ask us to restrict access to that content. We review such requests carefully in light of local laws and where appropriate, we make it unavailable in the relevant country or territory.”

  • Russia threatened to block Facebook, Instagram's parent company, last year unless it agreed to comply with a law that requires websites to store the personal data of Russian citizens on Russian servers.
  • Social media censorship is a tactic used globally by authoritarian figures to quell opposition voices. China has currently blocked many social media services, like Instagram, Facebook, Google and Twitter, and earlier this year it said it would block the Facebook-owned messenger service, WhatsApp.
  • Many credit access to social media tools, like YouTube and Facebook, for the rise of the Arab Spring in 2011 and 2012.
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