Russia to punish 'fake' war news, blocks Fb & Twitter

Russia to punish fake war news, blocks Fb & Twitter

Dusseldorf: Russian President Vladimir Putin has intensified a crackdown on media outlets and individuals who fail to hew to the Kremlin line on the war in Ukraine, blocking Facebook and Twitter and signing into law a bill that criminalizes the intentional spreading of what Moscow deems to be fake reports.

The moves against the social media giants on Friday follow blocks imposed on the BBC, the US government-funded Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, German broadcaster Deutsche Welle, and Latvia-based website Meduza.

The government's sweeping action against the foreign outlets that publish news in Russian seeks to establish even tighter controls over what information the domestic audience sees about the invasion of Ukraine.

The state communications watchdog Roskomnadzor said it cut access to Twitter and Facebook in line with a decision by the prosecutor general's office. The watchdog has previously accused Twitter of failing to delete the content banned by Russian authorities and slowed down access to it.

The bill, quickly rubber-stamped by both houses of the Kremlin-controlled parliament and signed by Putin, imposes prison sentences of up to 15 years for those spreading information that goes against the Russian government's narrative on the war. In response, multiple outlets said they would pause their work inside Russia to evaluate the situation. Among them, CNN said it would stop broadcasting in Russia while Bloomberg and the BBC said they would temporarily suspend the work of their journalists there. Russian authorities have repeatedly decried reports of Russian military setbacks or civilian deaths in Ukraine as fake news. State media outlets refer to Russia's invasion of Ukraine as a special military operation rather than a war or an invasion.

Vyacheslav Volodin, the speaker of the lower house of parliament, said the measure "will force those who lied and made statements discrediting our armed forces to bear very grave punishment. I want everyone to understand, and for society to understand, that we are doing this to

protect our soldiers and officers, and to protect the truth, he added.

The law envisages sentences of up to three years or fines for spreading what authorities deem to be false news about the military, but the maximum punishment rises to 15 years for cases deemed to have led to severe consequences.

In blocking Facebook, Roskomnadzor cited its alleged discrimination of the Russian media and state information resources. The agency said in a statement that the restrictions introduced by Facebook owner Meta on the Russian news channel RT and other state-controlled media violate Russian law.

Formed in a fury to counter Russia's blitzkrieg attack, Ukraine's hundreds-strong volunteer hacker corps is much more than a paramilitary cyberattack force in Europe's first major war of the internet age. It is crucial to information combat and to crowdsourcing intelligence.

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