Meta was found guilty of “extremist activities” by a Moscow court on Monday, but the judgement will not affect its WhatsApp chat service, instead focusing on the company’s already-banned Facebook and Instagram social networks. Meta did not reply to demands for comment after the Tverskoi District Court in Moscow announced in a news release that it had upheld a complaint filed by state prosecutors to prohibit the company from conducting business in Russia.
According to the Interfax news agency, Meta’s lawyer Victoria Shakina had previously informed the court that the company was not involved in extremist activities and was opposed to Russophobia.
It was unclear whether Meta will challenge the ban on Facebook and Instagram activities in Russia “on the grounds of realising terrorist activity,” which judge Olga Solopova told TASS would be implemented immediately.
According to press reports, Russian communications regulator Roskomnadzor announced late Monday that it will remove Meta from the list of foreign firms operating on the Internet in Russia, as well as Instagram and Facebook from the register of social networks.
Roskomnadzor further stated that while disseminating material, Russian media must mark Meta and its social networks as unlawful and must not use their logos. Russia has previously labelled groups like the Taliban and Islamic State as “extreme,” but has since broadened this to include Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Anti-Corruption Foundation of imprisoned Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny.
According to researcher Insider Intelligence, Facebook had 7.5 million users in Russia last year and WhatsApp had 67 million, while Instagram has stated that the ban will effect 80 million users in Russia.
The ruling’s ramifications are unknown, as Facebook and Instagram are already banned in Russia, and the court stated that WhatsApp will be unaffected.
Russia first stopped Facebook for limiting access to Russian media, while Instagram was restricted earlier this month after Meta stated it would allow Ukrainian social media users to post comments advocating violence against Russian President Vladimir Putin and Russian forces stationed in the country.
Russia refers to the fighting as a “special military operation” aimed at disarming Ukraine and protecting it from “dangerous nationalists.”