Russia has added Meta, Facebook’s parent company, to a list of organizations involved in terrorism and extremism, according to the Russian outlet Interfax.
The move means that WhatsApp, the internationally popular messaging app, may soon go dark in Russia, Insider reported.
Meta’s other flagship services, Facebook and Instagram, are already banned in the country, accused by Russian media regulator Roskomnadzor of discriminatory, anti-Russian policies.
After Russia began its Ukraine invasion, Meta quietly allowed users in countries near Russia to call for violence against Russian soldiers, Reuters reported. The company also allowed praise of Ukraine’s far-right Azov Battalion that normally would not have been allowed, according to the Intercept.
Following the Facebook and Instagram bans, Meta was found guilty in Russian court of “realizing extremist activity,” according to the Guardian. The ruling was the country’s first use of its extremism law on a foreign technology company.
WhatsApp was not banned at that time because it’s a “means of communication, not a source of information,” the Guardian quoted the court as saying.
During the March trial, the American company was accused of creating an “alternative reality” where “hatred for Russians was kindled,” the Guardian reported.
At the time, Meta President of Global Affairs Nick Clegg stated that the loosened rules were “a temporary decision taken in extraordinary and unprecedented circumstances,” adding that Meta would uphold its hate speech policies “as far as the Russian people are concerned.”
Meta was added to Russia’s list of terrorist and extremist organizations by Rosfinmonitoring, Russia’s federal financial monitoring service, according to Interfax. Russian anti-war movement Vesna was also added to the list.
In January, WhatsApp had 83.8 million users in Russia, Instagram had 67 million, and Facebook had 37 million, according to Statista.
Meta in August helped bust up a deceptive pro-U.S. and anti-Russia social media campaign.