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Facebook Raises Ire of Russian Dissidents by Blocking Anti-Putin Page


A decision by Facebook to block a page used to rally Russian opponents of President Vladimir Putin has engulfed the world’s largest social networking site in political controversy and raised accusations that it censors content on behalf of the authorities here, the New York Times said on December 22.

Facebook over the weekend removed an event page promoting a Jan. 15 demonstration near the walls of the Kremlin in support of Aleksei A. Navalny, a leading opposition figure. The page had gathered more than 12, 000 prospective attendees before it was blocked at the request of the Russian government’s Internet monitor, Roskomnadzor, the Times said.

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Mr. Navalny, who ran unsuccessfully for mayor of Moscow in 2013, has been under house arrest since February. He faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted in a pending criminal case — one of several prosecutions brought against him, said the report.

Vadim Ampelonsky, a spokesman for Roskomnadzor, said on Saturday that Facebook had deleted the demonstration page because it called for an “unsanctioned mass event, ” which can apply to any public event with three or more people, according to the Times.

Supporters of Mr. Navalny accused Facebook of yielding too quickly to government pressure.

“We were very surprised and very disappointed because of the speed with which Facebook has satisfied an ordinary request of Roskomnadzor without even contacting the organizers of the event, ” said Kira Yarmysh, a press aide to Mr. Navalny, who is barred from using the Internet or telephone because he is under house arrest, the report said.

The ensuing uproar may force Facebook, and its chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg, to make a clearer choice between the free flow of information that social media promises and the risk of lost market-share that could result from angering powerful but repressive governments, said the Times.

Meanwhile, Facebook’s teen demographic continues to slide, though its site and messaging app still beat out rivals in number of users, with WhatsApp and Instagram proving to be effective safety nets for the social network, Tech Times said on December 23.

With its ambitious goal of connecting the entire world, Facebook has been working to innovate with features that could keep 13-to-17-year-old users on its social networking site, the report said.

The latest report states that Facebook’s 13- to 17-year-old demographic slipped from 94 percent to 88 percent this year, with those numbers excluding individuals who don’t use social networks. Meanwhile, that group’s use of Twitter rose 2 percent to 48 percent over the same period, Tech Times said.

The decline in teen users can be largely attributed to rival messaging apps and public distrust of Facebook, although teen use is still higher on Facebook than any other social network, said Tech Times.

“The reality is that teens have everyday social situations that adults don’t have, ” said Brian Solis, a principal analyst at Altimeter Group Solis. “They have a real-life social network every single day and for that they are using a lot of real-time text-related communication.”



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