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Putin Blocks Instagram and Leaves Russian Influencers Bankrupt

Their accounts aren't deleted, but they won't be able to access them without a VPN

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TV stars cry, professional influencers; the most self-deprecating people portray while giving alms in the street; others with the VPN reappear after the block. At midnight, the guarantor of communication Roskomnadzor blacked out Instagram in Russia, blocking access to millions of users. The decision was announced on 11 March, now three weeks after the start of the invasion of Ukraine.

36-year-old Olga Buzova, a TV personality with 23 million followers, tearfully greeted her followers: “I don’t want to lose you.” Less dramatic is the mechanical influencer Nastya Tyman (almost a million followers), who became famous after sharing an old video of her with instructions for driving an armored vehicle, which then went viral in Ukraine (it is not clear if it was really a pro-Ukrainian gesture ). She shot a clip in which she begs for alms in front of a shopping mall; her boyfriend just feeds the pigeons. Another post comes out surprisingly after the block: “You too?” and above her, with the VPN sticker, while she pulls two SUVs: one is Instagram, the other TikTok.over the weekend two QR codes, one for Telegram and one for VK, “let’s stay in touch”. So did Kseniya Sobchak , an influencer with 9 million followers who had criticized the regime and has already left the country, as reported by the Washington Post.

Telegram and VK are the only two alternatives left to Russian users, after Facebook and Twitter were blocked on March 4th. TikTok, on the other hand, is limited to content produced by Russian users, but only old ones: new ones cannot be uploaded.

The situation of small business owners who use social media to sell the products of their businesses is more serious. Of course, nothing compares with Ukrainian citizens besieged by Russian troops and forced to flee or fight for their lives. When fashion influencer Karina Nigay complained about the block in very tragic tones, she was inundated with negative comments from Ukrainian users who pointed out the gravity of the situation in the real world. Faithful to the regime’s propaganda, she said she was ready to show only Russian brand clothes. But she then she resumed posting with the VPN.

According to Instagram CEO Adam Mosseri, 80 million Russian users will no longer be able to connect, although other sources in 2021 calculate just over 60. Mosseri complained on Twitter about the closure of the Russian market. “About 80 percent of subscribers in Russia follow at least one foreign account,” he commented on March 12.

Both Telegram and VK (a kind of Facebook) were founded by Pavel Durov, but at different times in his career. VK was the first, but was seized by the Kremlin government when Durov objected to handing over Ukrainian user data at the time of Crimea’s annexation in 2014. The founder moved to France and created Telegram. For now it is the only free app with which Russian citizens can find out about what is happening in Ukraine, although it is not yet known how much and to what extent it will be safe.

The Instagram blockade increasingly condemns the country to Putin’s propaganda bubble, for which the invasion of Ukraine and the carpet bombing of cities are only “a special military operation”.

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