In a sign of new limits on Facebook’s ability to serve as a platform for political opposition movements, Russian users appear to have been blocked from accessing a page calling for a protest in support of a prominent dissident.
In 2011, Facebook was hailed by opposition movements during the Arab Spring and in Russia as a powerful new tool to spread information beyond the control of repressive governments. That may no longer be the case, at least not in Russia. Russian Internet regulators said Saturday that they had sent Facebook a “demand” that it block access to a page calling for a demonstration in support of Alexei Navalny, the most prominent critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The page was set up on Friday after prosecutors recommended that Navalny be sent to prison for 10 years in a criminal case that critics have said is purely politically motivated. Within hours, the page drew thousands of people who said they were planning to attend, and as of Saturday evening, the number stood at more than 12,300. But it was no longer visible to users inside Russia. “This content is currently unavailable,” the Web site told users who tried to access it from inside the country.