Ukraine: Instagram, very popular in Russia, has been cut

Crying, shouting or angry messages on social networks… The scheduled end of Instagram on Monday caused a wave of concern – and even small-scale panic – in Russia last weekend.

Russian authorities announced on Friday that they would restrict access to Instagram in Russia overnight from Sunday to Monday, accusing it of spreading hate speech against Russians, in the midst of a military offensive in Ukraine.

The American giant Meta (which owns Instagram, as well as Facebook and WhatsApp) had announced the day before making exceptions to its rules on incitement to violence by not deleting messages hostile to the army and Russian leaders.

The social network is now also on the list of sites with “restricted access”, published by the telecommunications policeman Roskomnadzor, such as the networks Facebook, Twitter or even several media critical of Russian power.

And in fact, refreshing in the photo and video sharing application was impossible this Monday morning, while the site was inaccessible without a VPN, according to AFP journalists.

Very popular network

Instagram is very popular in Russia. It is used by 52.9 million Russians (i.e. 51% of Internet users in the country), compared to only 7.6 million for Facebook (i.e. 7.3% of Internet users), according to indications from the specialized firm eMarketer for 2022. on Data.ai, Instagram is the third smartphone application in terms of active users behind WhatsApp and YouTube (over the last thirty days). Contacted, Meta does not communicate a figure by country.

“Instagram is widely used by young people, especially since there is no real equivalent. There are many Russian influencers, whose Instagram is the source of income for the professional scene, ”notes Marie-Gabrielle Bertran, doctoral student in geopolitics at the University of Paris 8 and specialist in Russian digital.

Same observation for the Moscow correspondent of the “Financial Times”, Polina Ivanova, who underlines in a tweet: “For the young Moscow elites, Instagram is everything”.

sales tool

RFI cites the example of Sergey Koluzhniy, a Russian blogger with 180,000 subscribers, who lost everything overnight. “I’m especially worried about small traders who sell their products on Instagram. Thousands of people will lose their jobs,” he laments. Instagram is, indeed, a crucial online sales tool for many Russian companies, as well as artists, for whom visibility on this platform is crucial.

Karina Nigaï, a fashion blogger followed by nearly 3 million people on Instagram, compares her grief to bereavement, reports AFP. “I am still at the stage of anger and the stage of acceptance is still far away,” she writes, taking care, however, to redirect her subscribers to her VKontakte and Telegram accounts.

A video of a Russian ‘influencer’ crying over the upcoming lockdown has gone viral, with some netizens accusing her of indecency given the situation.

On the other hand, the blockage is also likely to have an impact on opposition movements. Instagram is notably one of the social networks most used by imprisoned opponent Alexeï Navalny. His team regularly publishes messages written from prison.

Meta clarifies permission for ‘violent’ posts

Meta (Facebook) announced at the end of last week to make exceptions to its rules on violent and hateful content, by not deleting messages hostile to the army and Russian leaders, in the context of the current war. The American group Meta clarified this Sunday its policy of moderation in this area. In an internal press release, of which the Bloomberg agency had a copy, Nick Clegg, president of public affairs, underlines that it is not a question of turning a blind eye to violence against Russians in general. He also indicates that Meta will not allow calls to assassinate a “head of state”, without naming himself Vladimir Putin. It therefore seems to go back to what had been understood at the end of last week.

(with press agencies)

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