Russia this week made its Instagram and Facebook ban official
, as the Kremlin declared Meta “extremist” following its recent (u-turned) policy to allow some threats of violence against Russian fighters and leaders.
Apparently, an “extremist” organisation’s encrypted messaging app is still perfectly acceptable, as WhatsApp is allowed to continue to operate. As Wired reported
, this is “a sign that the Kremlin is worried that ordinary Russians, who are already wrestling with sanctions and shortages, will only tolerate so much disruption to their daily lives.”
But those who built their livelihoods around Facebook or Instagram are already a disturbing case study in what happens when you no longer have access to the platform that provides your income. As NBC News reported, the impact has been huge for some:
That’s been the case for designer Elena Igonina, who launched the first collection of her Moscow-based fashion label just as the Covid-19 pandemic hit in 2020.
The brand has relied on Instagram to drive sales, with around 90 percent coming from the platform, she said. The block has meant her brand has taken a “huge financial loss.”
“Our reach on Instagram has already dropped by 70 percent,” she told NBC News in messages on WhatsApp last week. “A small business without big investment had a chance only with Instagram.”
Some such businesses have managed to continue operating with a VPN but with rising inflation and an audience who might not find them via VPNs, the outlook isn’t good for these businesses.
Of course, this is nothing compared to Russia’s devastatingly brutal impact on Ukrainian lives over the past month, but the Russian Instagram ban is an example of just how integrated platforms have become in our lives, and how fragile our relationship with them really can be. There might be more to follow. Bloomberg reported
that YouTube is at risk of a similar ban.
Meanwhile, Telegram—an app with stronger Russian ties than Meta's—is thriving
in Russia, and there was even news
of a potential state-censored rebirth of ICQ.
In other news relating to the ongoing war in Ukraine, a study found TikTok’s algorithm is a little too good
at surfacing misinformation about the conflict.