“Confirmed: Real-time network data show #Instagram is now restricted in #Russia across multiple providers,” Netblocks writes in a Twitter post.

In the wake of the ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine, many companies from different industries have been boycotting the former—thereby crippling their economy and driving up prices. But this time, Russia takes another hit when popular social media channel Instagram exits the country, too.

When the Clock Strikes Midnight

According to global internet watchdog Netblocks on Sunday, March 13 (or March 14, Philippine time), Instagram has officially been blocked in Russia. This checks up with an earlier report from the country’s state communications regulator, Roskomnadzor, who notified Instagram users that Instagram services would stop at midnight.

“Confirmed: Real-time network data show #Instagram is now restricted in #Russia across multiple providers,” Netblocks writes in its Twitter post, further adding that “real-time network data show that the restrictions are coming into effect across multiple providers rendering the platform widely unusable”.

As Russia’s most-used online platform—one that exceeds the popularity of both Twitter and Facebook—Russian influencers and businesses will be taking a brutal hit with these changes. And while virtual private networks (VPNs) could be used to circumvent the block, Russians do not have access to those kinds of services.

“Instagram can be accessed indirectly through the use of VPN services, which can work around government-imposed internet restrictions. However, many do not have access to VPN software and the usage of Instagram is expected to fall significantly in Russia as a result of the measure,” Netblocks explains in an article.

Prior to Instagram’s exit, Roskomnadzor sent an email message to users, expressly telling them to move their photos and videos before blocking the social media site. Likewise, it encouraged them to move their content to Russia’s very own “competitive internet platforms.”

Calm Before the Storm

This social media shutdown came after a temporary change to Meta’s hate speech policy—one that allowed Facebook and Instagram users in some countries to call out violent acts against Russians and Russian soldiers amid the ongoing Ukrainian invasion.

“As a result of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, we have temporarily made allowances for forms of political expression that would normally violate our rules like violent speech such as ‘death to the Russian invaders,’” a Meta spokesperson says in a statement. “We still won’t allow credible calls for violence against Russian civilians.”

As a result, Russia called for Meta to be labeled as an “extremist organization.” In fact, Russia’s Investigative Committee even said that “a criminal case has been initiated… in connection with illegal calls for murder and violence against citizens of the Russian Federation by employees of the American company Meta, which owns the social networks Facebook and Instagram.”

Prior to Russia blocking Instagram, it had also blocked Facebook on March 5, saying that it restricted access to Russian media.

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