Moscow threatened to stop the Meta-owned Instagram on Monday. It effectively blocked access for millions of Russians. The platform WasThe second-most popular Meta app in Russia, after messaging service WhatsApp.
Russia’s influential people are finding themselves behind an “Iron Curtain”, unable reach millions of their followers.
On Monday, Instagram in Russia will be shut down. The decision will affect 80 million Russians and the rest of the globe as approximately 80% of Russia’s people have an Instagram account from outside Russia. “This is wrong!” Adam Mosseri (@mosseri), the head of Meta’s Instagram posted on Twitter Monday night.
After Meta hadn’t-so-quietly modified its content policies which permitted for violent calls against Russian soldiers, government officials and even those from within Russia, the Kremlin made this move.
Nick Clegg, President of Meta Global Affairs (@nickclegg), took to Twitter to clarify the policies. “Reponding to reports by the Russian government that Meta is being designated an extremist organisation for its support of speech policies,” he said.
Clegg said in an official statement: “The truth is that if our standard content policies were not adjusted, we would be removing content of ordinary Ukrainians protesting the invasion military forces. This would be rightly considered unacceptable.”
Influencers cut off their followers
Many Russian “influencers”, regardless of their motivations, were vocal about how this move would affect them.
Instagram ads accounted for roughly half my total income. My page is being deleted. I’m honest. I ran my profile for over 10 years. My profile was active for over 10 years. Most likely, I’ll need to look into new income sources, or rediscover my self,” Karina IIomia, an Instagram DJ with nearly 400,000 followers, told The Guardian on Monday.
“This [Instagram]It is my life. This is the core of my being. It’s what I wake up to, and fall asleep with, for the past five years.
Lyubov Sobol of Russia (@SobolLubov), however, responded by calling out Nigay and writing “Blogger girl crying because she blocked instagram. It might be time to put aside politics and get serious about learning. The fact that the major stars didn’t voice their opposition in the first week was a sign they decided to wait and watch. This is a shame.
Twitter user @nexta_tv also criticised the move, writing, “One #Russian blogger cries that her Instagram will cease to work in just two days. She doesn’t seem to care much about her fellow compatriots and the thousands of people who have died. Her biggest concern right now is not being able to take pictures from restaurants.
VPN Usage Skyrockets
It seems many Russians don’t just accept the fact that Instagram and other social media platforms have been blocked.
Atlas VPN released a Tuesday report that showed the demand for VPNs had soared by 10,000% after Instagram removed their plug. VPN installation in Russia was at an all time high. It rose by 11.253 percent, which is more than the average.
This report highlighted the fact that VPN usage has been slowly growing since before the spike. Google searches began three weeks ago on February 25, 2022.
Moscow has so far not tried to ban VPN. It is one of few ways that Russians can bypass government restrictions online. The VPN allows activists to hide their IP addresses and access banned websites.
Atlas VPN said that it is hard to know how far Russia will push to suppress anti-war sentiments online, and to further influence the story of war. However, the trend towards censorship will continue, and we can expect the virtual private network demand to grow.
We can only hope that the Russians who use VPNs are not just checking in with their favourite influencers but trying to find out the truth about Ukraine’s war, we must.