January 29, 2023

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Russian court rejects Meta attempt to dismiss ‘extremism’ case -reports

March 21 (Reuters) – A Moscow court on Monday rejected an attempt by Facebook owner Meta Platforms (FB.O) to have extremism charges against it dismissed, Russian news agencies reported, in a case that could force the U.S. tech giant out of the Russian market.

The TASS news agency earlier reported that Meta had asked for more time to prepare its legal position and had questioned the court’s authority to ban its activities at the request of state prosecutors.

Meta did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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The company’s lawyer, Victoria Shagina, said in court that Meta was not carrying out extremist activities and stood against Russophobia, Interfax reported.

Russia has already banned Facebook for restricting access to Russian media while Instagram was blocked after Meta said it would allow social media users in Ukraine to post messages urging violence against Russian President Vladimir Putin and troops Moscow sent into Ukraine on Feb. 24. read more

Russia calls the conflict in Ukraine a “special military operation” to disarm Ukraine and protect it from “Nazis”.

Meta has since narrowed its guidance to prohibit calls for the death of a head of state and said its guidance should never be interpreted as condoning violence against Russians in general. read more

But the perceived threat to Russian citizens angered the authorities.

Russian prosecutors want to label Meta an “extremist organisation”, a designation once reserved for groups such as the Taliban and Islamic State but later given to the Jehovah’s Witnesses and jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation.

TASS cited the prosecutors as saying they were not seeking to curtail WhatsApp’s activity on Russian territory, but that Meta being deemed extremist would ban the company from doing business in Russia.

It was not immediately clear how the WhatsApp messaging service would be able to continue operating in the event of an “extremist” designation.

Communications regulator Roskomnadzor, the body responsible for blocking Facebook and Instagram, said it favoured a ban on Meta’s activities, TASS reported.

An FSB security service representative echoed that view in court, TASS reported.

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Reporting by Reuters
Editing by David Goodman

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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