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Russia bans Instagram and Facebook as ‘extremist’

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Russia bans Instagram and Facebook as 'extremist'


Facebook — whose parent company has been renamed Meta — has been battling regulatory issues, negative headlines around bullying and disinformation. — © AFP

A Russian court on Monday banned Facebook and Instagram as “extremist”, part of sweeping efforts by Moscow to crack down on social media during the conflict in Ukraine.

The Russian authorities have accused US tech giant Meta — the parent company of Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp — of tolerating “Russophobia” since President Vladimir Putin sent troops into Ukraine on February 24.

Facebook and Twitter have been inaccessible in Russia since early March and Instagram was blocked in the country a week ago.

Moscow’s Tverskoi district court acceded to a request from prosecutors for the two social media platforms to be banned for “carrying out extremist activities”.

It ruled that Meta’s WhatsApp messenger service would not be prohibited because it is not used to post public statements.

There was no immediate comment from Meta.

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During Monday’s hearing, Russia’s FSB security service accused Meta of working against the interests of Moscow and its army during the conflict.

“The activities of the Meta organisation are directed against Russia and its armed forces,” FSB representative Igor Kovalevsky told the court in a statement reported by Russian news agencies.

“We ask (the court) to ban Meta’s activities and oblige it to implement this ruling immediately,” he said.

Meta had announced on March 10 that the platforms would allow statements like “death to Russian invaders” but not credible threats against civilians.

But in what appeared to be damage control, Meta’s global affairs president, Nick Clegg, later said the laxer rules would only apply to people posting from inside Ukraine.

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– Is posting safe? –

In court, a Meta representative said that “following public debate” the company had now changed its policy and deemed that “Russophobia and calls for violence against Russian citizens are unacceptable”.

Experts said on Monday it remained unclear whether it was now illegal for ordinary Russians to post on Facebook and Instagram.

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Net Freedoms Project said Russians could use Meta’s social media “carefully” — for now.

The rights project noted that the prosecution said Russians cannot be prosecuted for simply using the social media.

“This means that it can be safe to have accounts and post on Instagram and Facebook,” Net Freedoms Project said.

It pointed out however that those purchasing Facebook and Instagram advertising could be prosecuted for financing an extremist organisation.

Russia’s Investigative Committee, which probes major crimes, this month said it was launching a probe “due to illegal calls for the murder of Russian nationals by employees of the American company Meta”.

Meta boasts billions of users globally across its apps.

Facebook and Instagram were widely used in Russia and the latter was the most popular social media platform among young Russians.

For many small Russian businesses, Instagram was a key platform for advertising, processing sales and communicating with clients.

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The United Nations had voiced alarm at Facebook’s decision to temporarily ease its policy on violent speech after Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, warning it could spark “hate speech” against Russians.



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Twitter Tests New Bitmoji Integration to Display Your Digital Character as Your Twitter Profile Image

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Twitter Tests New Bitmoji Integration to Display Your Digital Character as Your Twitter Profile Image

This is interesting – Twitter is experimenting with a new integration that would enable users to display their Bitmoji character as their Twitter profile image, providing another way to use your digital avatar as a representation of yourself.

As you can see in this image, posted by app researcher Alessandro Paluzzi, Twitter’s testing out a new Bitmoji integration within the profile image upload flow, with an ‘Add Bitmoji’ button to connect your Bitmoji account.

Which, of course, would also link your Twitter profile to Snapchat, which owns Bitmoji. Essentially, this integration would provide a direct link between your Snapchat profile, where you create your Bitmoji character, and Twitter, which may be the first time that the two platforms have partnered on a direct integration of this type.

That’s interesting in terms of competition, given the two platforms operate in a competitive space. But at the same time, Twitter doesn’t have its own native avatar creation tools, as yet, and the integration with Bitmoji likely suggests that it’s not looking to add such, instead leaning on Snap’s character creation tools to enable another means of expression with your Twitter presence.

Snapchat’s been looking to make its Bitmoji characters a bigger part of the in-app experience, even launching a range of branded Bitmoji clothing options to provide more ways for users to express their identity in the app.

Bitmoji fashion example

The expanded view is that users will come to rely on these digital caricatures as another means of expression. And as we move towards the metaverse future, where we’ll all be interacting via digital puppets, maybe that will then endear users enough to their Bitmoji characters to adopt them as their primary digital avatars to be used across these new, immersive spaces.

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Which is why expanding them to Twitter as well makes a lot of sense, in enhancing that connection and affiliation with the depiction.

We asked Twitter about the experiment, and it provided us with this statement:

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We are always exploring new ways for people to express themselves on the platform. We don’t have further details to share at this time.”

So nothing to go on yet, but it is an area that Twitter’s exploring – and in a world where Twitter users are increasingly using random images of monkeys, goblins, and other cartoon characters as their profile images in the app, a Bitmoji integration seems to make a lot of sense.

It could be another stepping stone to the metaverse, and a future where we interact in totally new ways.

We’ll keep you updated on any progress.



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