‘I’m writing this now and crying’: Russians bid farewell to Instagram ahead of midnight ban

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Russian regulators said on March 11, 2022 that internet users in the country would not be allowed to access Instagram. (Jenny Kane/AP)

RIGA, Latvia — Tears flowed Sunday among Russian Instagram influencers, who begged their followers in farewell messages to join them on alternative social media platforms, as Russian authorities prepared to shut down the social network American at midnight.

Russian communications regulator Roskomnadzor officially banned Instagram on Friday and gave Russian users a 48-hour grace period to say goodbye to the popular app, triggering the forced exodus.

In its announcement of the decision, the Russian regulator cited a decision by parent company Meta to allow posts calling for violence against Russians on Instagram and Facebook. The American company made an exception to its policy against incitement to violence, so long as the posts represented political expression against Russian forces invading Ukraine. Meta said calls for violence against ordinary Russian citizens would remain banned.

“The Russian government has decided to block Instagram in Russia, cutting off millions of people from their relatives and friends around the world,” Instagram manager Adam Mosseri said in a video response. “We know that over 80% of people in Russia on Instagram follow an account outside of Russia. The situation is terrifying and we are trying to do everything we can to keep people safe. »

On the platform, emotion was high on Sunday among Russians who were about to lose thousands of dollars they received to promote various products, as well as access to millions of followers amassed over the years.

“I am writing this message now and crying,” wrote Olga Buzova, a Russian reality TV star, saying she hoped “everything is not true and we will stay here.”

Russian authorities previously blocked access to Facebook on March 4, citing discrimination against Russian state media on the platform. It shut down one of the most common platforms for Kremlin critics to voice their opinions and stage protests.

The Instagram ban is the latest example of how Russian citizens are being isolated from the rest of the world following Moscow’s war on Ukraine.

Since Russian President Vladimir Putin launched the invasion on February 24, his government has also unplugged opposition-oriented Russian radio and television networks, as part of a broader effort to stifle national dissent. in response to war. Thousands of Russians were arrested for trying to protest the invasion.

Many international companies have announced their exit from the Russian market or suspended their operations in the country, citing the war in Ukraine, after American and European sanctions against the Russian central bank caused the ruble to fall. The series of ads foreshadowed a Russia without widespread access to popular consumer products, including Ikea furniture, H&M clothing and Starbucks coffee.

But perhaps no measure is more isolating than removing Russians from social media platforms that connect them directly to other users around the world.

Instagram had nearly 60 million users in Russia in 2021, according to market data firm Statista, or around 40% of the country’s population. The platform is also a huge source of income for its users, who raise money from sponsors by posting promotional content. It’s unclear how many Russians will continue to be able to access Instagram using virtual private networks, or VPNs.

Instagram’s shutdown isn’t just affecting Russian influencers who parade their designer clothes in front of millions of followers.

Russians who use Instagram to stay in touch with friends, post artistic photographs or share images of their children also write goodbye notes, sharing account information for Telegram, the messaging service that remains available in Russia.

Hundreds of small and medium-sized businesses, from tattoo studios to auto repair shops, have lamented the loss of the platform that has long served as their primary sales tool. Russian charities that fundraise on Instagram are also in shock.

“Instagram is not just pictures. It is also a lot of jobs and a chance to engage in good deeds,” a Moscow dog shelter called Husky Help posted on its Instagram profile. the shelter, Instagram represents a community “amassed over the years” and “one of the main instruments to help dogs”.

The Instagram ban is also impacting the few Russians who have spoken out publicly against the war, cutting them off from millions of Russian followers.

Russian media personality Kseniya Sobchak, who criticized the war and left the country, posted a photo of herself in a black lace funeral dress and told her 9 million followers how to follow her on Telegram and others services.

Nastya Ivleeva, a Russian influencer who has 18.9 million Instagram followers, posted a drawing of a dove and called on Russian authorities to stop the war in Ukraine.

In a separate, since-deleted post, she said, “Six great years of creativity, inspiration, motivation, discovery, achievement and accomplishment are flying straight into the hell hole.”

Russia has not shut down access to YouTube, which some pro-opposition Russians use to obtain information about the war in Ukraine and circumvent state propaganda. Russian media are not allowed to call the conflict a war and must instead call it a “special military operation” to avoid violating a new national law threatening up to 15 years in prison for those who publish “false” war in Ukraine.

TikTok is still accessible in Russia, but the social networking site blocked Russian users from uploading videos after Putin signed the new law on March 4.

As they bid farewell to Instagram, many Russian influencers posted QR codes allowing users to follow them on Telegram, as well as links to their profiles on Russian state-controlled social media platform VK. Some said they would say or post things on Telegram that Instagram’s rules prevent them from sharing.

Oksana Samoylova, a Russian Instagram influencer with 15.2 million followers, said she was up until 3:30 a.m. Sunday writing messages on Telegram and realized how much she had bottled up in due to Instagram rules.

“You will soon meet my alter ego,” she said. “Not really my alter-ego, in fact, you’ll just get to know me much closer, because over there I can be much, much more open.”

On Sunday afternoon, Samoylova noted that it was already past midnight in the Russian Far East, so users there were unable to access her Instagram profile, even using VPNs. .

Karina Nigay, a Russian fashion influencer with 2.9 million followers, posted a “hysterical” photo of herself being hugged by a young man.

“It’s my job,” Nigay said in a live video. “Imagine that you have just been completely laid off from work and you do not receive any income, but at the same time you have expenses for your family, for your team if you have subordinates, and then all of a sudden you don’t you have nothing more to pay your team.

Later, she put a positive spin on the situation, saying it would be good for Russian fashion brands. She noted that she has already revamped her wardrobe to feature 80% Russian clothing over the years. Nigay said a social media platform called “Rusogram” might appear.

Ukrainian followers reacted with disgust to Russians lamenting the shutdown of their Instagram profiles. “Wow those are some issues you have,” one Ukrainian follower wrote in the comments to Nigay’s video. “I’m shocked we have air sirens here,” said another.

Nigay sought to silence the comments, calling them “propaganda stories” during his live video.

“Look, to those who write all kinds of crap, all these propaganda stories, I absolutely don’t care,” Nigay said. “Seriously get the hell out of here.”

A scene from the Hollywood apocalypse comedy ‘Don’t Look Up’ went viral on Sunday to depict how Russian social media influencers were feeling. In the scene, Jonah Hill’s character, carrying a Hermès Birkin bag, crawls out of the debris of the erased world and pulls out an iPhone to film himself.

“What’s the matter?” Hill’s character says to the camera. “I am the last man on earth. S— is all screwed up. Don’t forget to like and subscribe!”


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