The war in Ukraine is happening in parallel with an information war in Russia
The narrative Russians are being told about the war in Ukraine is very different from the one that we are hearing. Putin has banned the use of the word “war” to describe his “special operation” in Ukraine, and many Russian media platforms have been banned or are unable to continue covering the invasion.
Putin signed his “fake news” law on March 4, which makes any contradiction of the official Kremlin position punishable with a 15-year jail sentence.
As of today, Instagram is banned in Russia, after Russian artists, bloggers and athletes used the platform to speak out in opposition of the war.
It’s just the latest in a series of social media crackdowns by the Kremlin, who blocked access to Facebook and Twitter earlier this month. According to Moscow, Meta is an “extremist organisation” and both social media giants were violating “rights and freedoms of Russian nationals”.
Putin’s decision to block Meta-owned Instagram, which is the most popular social network in Russia, came after Meta confirmed it was relaxing its policies on hate speech towards Russian soldiers and Putin within certain countries.
WhatsApp, which is also owned by Meta, has not been banned as it is “a means of communication, not a source of information”.
Over the weekend, many Russian influencers took to Instagram stories to voice their dismay at the impending ban.
“Roughly half of all my income came through Instagram advertising,” said DJ, influencer and previous Marie Claire Russia cover girl Karina Istomina, according to a report by the Guardian. “To be honest with you, I am absolutely devastated that I am losing my page. I ran my profile for over 10 years. Most likely I will have to find new sources of income, will have to rediscover myself.”
Meanwhile, one of Russia’s most popular media personalities, Yuri Dudt, wrote: “Putin has invaded a sovereign nation and is waging a war there … It is clear that Putin does not care about people for a long time now.”
The Guardian reports that many people and businesses have responded by setting up channels on Telegram and VKontakte — two Russian-founded platforms that have not yet been banned. But as the newspaper points out, with pro-Kremlin channels rubbing up against Ukrainian reports on the war, the platform has become a virtual battleground.