Russia Considers A Ban on Facebook Heading Into 2018 Elections

Yesterday The Daily Proletariat reported how representatives from Facebook‘s Advertising Services had testified in front of US Congress for the first time, handing over the documentation to over 3,000 advertisements allegedly purchased by Russian propagandists ahead of the 2016 Presidential election. While it is impossible to quantify how effective these advertisements were or how many voters they swayed, the fact of the matter is that all of this actually happened.

It is now a widely accepted fact that Russian actors tried to corrupt American society, undermine our cultural values and mock Hillary Clinton by creating fake news headlines, events, pictures and memes throughout the course of 2017. However, perhaps even more interesting than Facebook‘s testimony yesterday was the fact that, on the same day Facebook executives were testifying in front of Congress, Russia’s legislature was debating a countrywide ban on Facebook altogether by the start of 2018. But I am sure that was “just a coincidence” – right?

About the legislation in question, as was reported by Catalin Cimpanu of BleepingComputer.com on September 27th 2017, “Russian officials said they are considering a ban on Facebook for the start of 2018 unless the social network is willing to comply with the country’s new privacy and user protection rules.” The article then goes on to quote one Russian politician, Alexander Zharov, the Head of Communications at Roskomnadzor, whom states that “We will make sure the law is complied with, or the company will stop working in the Russian Federation.” Adding that “There are no exceptions here” and “The law is obligatory for all.

If Facebook does not comply with Russia’s requirements before the start of 2018, the service risks being banned from the country entirely, joining other web platforms such as Wikipedia, Reddit and Pornhub.com, whom have each been banned for their own reasons. According to the same report, to avoid any future complications, other social media platforms such as Twitter have already agreed to comply with Russia’s requests on these matters.

For those of you whom do not already know, Russia will be holding National elections in 2018 and perhaps most importantly of all, Vladimir Putin will also be up for re-election. I implied that it was no coincidence Russia was discussing a ban of Facebook on the same day that Facebook executives were testifying in front of Congress because, knowing full well how the US election was exploited via social media in 2016, wouldn’t it make sense that Russia would attempt to get out ahead of the problem and prevent the same sort of thing from happening to them?

It is important to note that this is not the first time Russia has threatened to ban Facebook. It is also no small secret that Russia has also been working quite hard to block bad press and publicity from entering the country for years now. For example, this year alone, Russia’s legislature has already gone on to pass new laws blocking human rights organizations from reporting inside their country. This was done because the Government fears that these types of organizations could potentially undermine the public’s trust in the Government by reporting on War Crimes taking place in Syria, where the Russian military is currently heavily entrenched.

Russia’s legislature has also gone on to pass new laws banning VPN’s, proxy servers and the Tor web browser from their country. In 2017 Russia is now the only country on Earth to block all of these services simultaneously, though China is getting pretty close in their own right. Russia did this to serve two purposes. First, it prevents Russian citizens from bypassing the blocks or firewalls placed upon internet access by Russian authorities and second, it prevents Russian citizens from doing business with or consuming information from international entities.

More closely related to the current problem facing Facebook, new “privacy laws” have been enacted in Russia to prevent anyone from being able to hide their physical address (IP Address) or computer online, or use fake names and accounts when posting any material online. The way that Russia’s Government seems to look at it, this makes everyone in Russia accountable for the words they use and the actions they take online. It also prevents anyone with a Facebook account from being able to create and publish fake news, or make comments under anything but their real name.


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