The Russians between regret and fatalism for the blocking of Instagram

What shall I do? Russian Instagram users were torn between regret and resignation on Sunday before the blocking of the highly popular social network, at a time when Russian authorities are trying to strictly control information about the conflict in Ukraine.

“Where can I kill time? What shall I do ? Everyone is on Instagram…”, panics Ekatérina Makarova, a 28-year-old logistics worker who lives in Saint Petersburg. “Maybe I’ll go to VKontakte and Telegram, maybe they won’t be blocked,” she reassures herself, calling respectively the Russian equivalent of Facebook and an encrypted messenger also widely used in Russia.

Instagram blocked from this Sunday evening

Authorities announced Friday that they would restrict access to Instagram in Russia from midnight Monday (10pm Paris time) and accused it of spreading hate speech against Russians amid a military offensive in Ukraine.

US giant Meta, which owns Instagram as well as Facebook and WhatsApp, had announced the day before that it would make exceptions to its rules on incitement to violence by not deleting messages hostile to the military and Russian leaders. Sites with “restricted” access in Russia become almost inaccessible without the use of a virtual private network (VPN). This is already the case with Facebook and Twitter.

Instead of an immediate block, the telecoms regulator Roskomnadzor gave Instagram a two-day deadline to allow users to transfer their content to other platforms. Since then, there has been panic among the most diligent users.

Tears and mockery

The video of a Russian “influencer” crying hot tears over the upcoming blockade has gone viral, with some internet users accusing her of being indecent about what civilians are going through in Ukraine. “You just have to move to Kharkiv, Instagram still works there,” joked one surfer, citing Ukraine’s second city, surrounded by Russian troops and in the throes of fierce fighting.

Karina Nigaï, a fashion blogger followed by nearly three million people on Instagram, likens her pain to bereavement: “I’m still in the anger phase and the acceptance phase is still a long way off,” she writes. subscribers to his VKontakte and Telegram accounts.

“We’ll live without it! †

In Russia, as in the rest of the world, Instagram is a hugely popular platform among young people, who compulsively post photos and videos there. “There are bloggers who make money” on Instagram, so blocking “isn’t great for them,” said Anastassia Malova, a 23-year-old college student. “But for me, a normal person who sometimes shares things about his life there, it doesn’t affect me much. †

Like them, some users seem to have made up their minds. “If they close it then they will, I’m going on Telegram! », Launches, bravado, Alexeï Garkoucha, a 41-year-old painter. “We’ll live without it! adds Nikolai Ermenko, a 45-year-old engineer.

Victoria Lilova, a 29-year-old teacher, will not suffer “personally”, but she “feels sorry for charities because they raise a lot of money on Instagram”.

Alexandra Mitroshina, an influencer with more than 2.4 million Instagram followers, is concerned “for small and medium-sized businesses whose business is Instagram-related”.

An impact on opposition movements?

Clothing, furniture, massage or language courses: Instagram is indeed a crucial online sales tool for many Russian companies, but also for artists, who depend on their visibility on this platform, in Russia and abroad, to find customers. In addition to the economic health of influencers and small businesses, the lockdown will likely affect opposition movements as well.

In particular, Instagram is one of the most used social networks of imprisoned adversary Alexeï Navalny, a Kremlin hobbyhorse. His team regularly publishes messages written from prison.