Russia has officially recognized Meta as an “extremist organization,” meaning that the company’s business and services are banned in the country. However, people will still be able to use Facebook and Instagram despite them being blocked.

The ruling was issued by the Tverskoy District Court of Moscow on March 21. The decision to ban Facebook and Instagram, which have been already blocked in the country, must “take effect immediately.”

According to the prosecutor, using Meta’s products and services shouldn’t be labeled as extremist activity: “Individuals won’t be held liable for the mere fact of using Meta’s services. Meta will be prevented from opening divisions and doing business [in Russia]. We’re talking about the prohibition of the company’s activities, its business structure” (via TASS).

However, the ruling won’t affect WhatsApp, so the messenger won’t be labeled “extremist.”

Although the Russians can still bypass the ban on Facebook and Instagram by using VPN services, it is unclear whether the country’s court system will be able to guarantee the users’ safety in the future.

According to Pavel Chikov, head of Russian human rights group Agora, any public demonstration of Meta’s logos — on the website, social media, the doors of a store or cafe — could lead to bringing a person to administrative responsibility. On top of that, any advertising or trading in Meta shares might be labeled as “financing extremist activities.”

The Prosecutor General’s Office of the Russian Federation called to recognize Meta as an extremist organization earlier this month following the company’s decision to temporarily allow hate speech towards the Russian military on its platforms.

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