Facebook, the world’s largest social networking site, may face a political storm after it decided to block a page used to rally Russian opponents of President Vladimir Putin.
The website operator over the weekend removed an event page promoting a Jan. 15 demonstration in Moscow in support of leading opposition figure Aleksei Navalny, the New York Times reported.
The page had gathered more than 12,000 prospective attendees before it was blocked at the request of the Russian government’s internet watchdog Roskomnadzor, according to the newspaper.
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.
A spokesman for Roskomnadzor said Facebook had deleted the demonstration page because it called for an “unsanctioned mass event”.
Navalny supporters 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, an aide of Navalny.
A Facebook spokeswoman declined to comment on the case, saying the company does not discuss specific blocking cases.
Similar pages promoting anti-government events in Russia were not blocked, including one calling on people to attend the Jan. 15 rally for Navalny, which has gathered more than 25,000 pledges.
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