Facebook and Instagram have been blocked in the Russian Federation, with both social media platforms now completely inaccessible to users in that country. Meta’s VR services haven’t been mentioned by name in the bans, although they’re also likely to become inaccessible as a side effect.

The ongoing invasion of Ukraine has caused a huge backlash from businesses around the world, which has resulted in a laundry list of consumer products and services pulling out of both Russia and its ally Belarus.

Last week Reuters revealed that Meta was taking a temporary stance on how it’s addressing hate speech on Facebook and Instagram. The report maintained that users in many of the former Eastern Bloc countries who called for violence against Russians and Russian soldiers in the context of the Ukraine invasion wouldn’t be considered a breach in terms of service. It was later clarified that only users in Ukraine would be exempt, and not the wider list of surrounding countries.

Now both Facebook and Instagram have been banned outright in Russia, with the country cutting those services off to some 70 million users in response to Meta’s now fairly obvious stance on just who it supports in the conflict. Meta messaging app WhatsApp hasn’t been specifically included in the ban, although that has the distinct possibility of changing fairly soon.

The Russian government opened a criminal probe last week against Meta in hopes of classifying it as an “extremist organization,” which Business Insider reports may see a complete prohibition of its activities in Russia. It’s a growing and frankly nebulous designation levied by Russia on organizations such as al-Qaida… but also Jehovah’s Witnesses, so it’s not certain what effect it will have on users who try to bypass bans by using Meta’s services through virtual private networks (VPNs).

Unsupported, Unwanted Business

Countries not included in Meta’s list of supported regions can’t buy VR headsets directly from Meta, although residents can import hardware from elsewhere and access the digital side of the platform without issue; supported regions include Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, United Kingdom and the United States.

Still, over the years getting a Quest or Rift in Russia wasn’t like buying one in Germany or Mexico (both unsupported regions), where you can simply login to Amazon and purchase with one click. In Russia, importing things from outside—especially European countries—has been notoriously difficult and costly, making a $300 Quest 2 significantly more expensive whether you decide to import or buy through a local reseller.

Image courtesy Meta

Russian Quests and Rifts aren’t expensive paper weights just yet though, although it looks like it’s moving in that direction. Since March 2nd, Russian banks have been banned from SWIFT transactions, the leading payment system for international bank transfers, and Russian-issued Visa and Mastercard have also become useless outside of the country.

Effectively all digital sales for services such as the Quest Store, Steam, Epic, etc., are now dead as a result, meaning Russian users can’t buy games online.

Quest 2 Goes out of Stock at Meta Store as Rumors Point to Next Headset

Quest Gets Caught in the Dragnet

Russia’s version of the FCC, Roskomnadzor, has the power to ban or slow down any service it deems inappropriate. Last year the agency announced it was reducing the loading speed of Twitter in response to the website hosting “illegal images,” bringing the service to a crawl for its users. Hitting the F5 button resulted in multiple minute-long waits to refresh your feed, something which ultimately was designed to stymy the user’s ability to view and share video and images. The year-long slowdown is over though. Twitter is also now blocked.

And then the agency targeted Facebook and Instagram, which got on the blacklist when Roskomnadzor said those services were allowing for “calls for violence against Russians.” At the same time, Quest users weren’t able to login since some ISPs in that country seemed to have enacted their own interpretations of the ban. At this point, Quest users in Russia aren’t certain whether it’s intentional or accidental.

Photo by Road to VR

Speaking to Russia-based VR users, we learned that Roskomnadzor doesn’t appear to have the same degree of control over service providers as China does with its ‘Great Firewall’—not yet anyhow. For now it appears some Russian ISPs are being more heavy-handed than others when it comes to blocking peripheral services. Blocking web services not explicitly mentioned in bans could be anticipatory, overzealous, inaccurate—or some combination of the three.

Back in 2018, Roskomnadzor moved to block messaging app Telegram, which resulted in a host of unrelated web services, such as PlayStation Network, being inaccessible to users. It was a decidedly indelicate way of shutting down Telegram in Russia, so it’s possible Russians may be experiencing a similar situation, albeit on a much larger scale now.

For Russia-based users, the first and most obvious workaround to accessing any of the blocked services mentioned above is setting up a VPN, but it’s still too early to tell if that’s an enduring strategy. Meta may soon be considered an “extremist organization” by the Russian government, and interacting with its services surreptitiously may be even be considered a criminal act. And that would probably go for Quest users and developers alike.

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Well before the first modern XR products hit the market, Scott recognized the potential of the technology and set out to understand and document its growth. He has been professionally reporting on the space for nearly a decade as Editor at Road to VR, authoring more than 4,000 articles on the topic. Scott brings that seasoned insight to his reporting from major industry events across the globe.
  • Алексей Лисовицкий

    Hi guys! I’m in Russia and my Quest 2 works good. Our VR developer community, however, is concerned about developer accounts. Hope you well

    • NL_VR

      Stay strong in these hard times.

    • Jonathan Winters III

      Godspeed to you, all Russian and Ukrainian peoples.

    • Till Eulenspiegel

      What’s going to happen to those VRporn companies in Russia? Are they going to to stop making videos?

      • James Cobalt

        On the list of things of things to be concerned about for Russian and Ukrainian peoples and companies, this is on the backside at the bottom.

    • Twa Corbies

      “A day after President Biden branded President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia a “war criminal” over civilian deaths in Ukraine, Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken on Thursday echoed his assessment and said Mr. Putin would be held accountable.”

  • kontis

    This is why North Korea uses Windows 7 and why Windows 11 is forcing online logins.

    You can see where this is all going.

    There is a theory saying that Windows 11 exists (even though Win 10 was supposed to be the final one) because DoD or CIA requested a requirement of TPM, which allows hardware based user tracing and identification.

    When people were demanding from Microsoft to give up on TPM in WIn11 they possibly completely missed the point of why Win 11 was even being made. Did Microsoft really sell their customers to the deep state of the USA? Who knows…

    Good thing Valve is pushing with Linux.

    • Well, at least TPM can be disabled after Win11 installation so jokes on them…
      And the users oblivious to the lack of features.

    • ♦Ralph♦

      Bad thing that Valve is what, at least thrice than a Quest, and a
      tethered experience. What VR needs is a non-proprietary hardware
      solution, that doesn’t require us to sell a kidney to use.

      • implicator

        Airlink lets you use the Quest 2 with Linux, quite well actually.

    • Lucidfeuer

      They’re copying smartphones which already have a kind of TPM which is the IMEI. A lots of spyware like chrome also each have a UID (unique identifier), but TPM is hardware encoded and authentified.

    • Merzcat

      Good thing I still use Windows XP!

    • ViRGiN

      “Good thing Valve is pushing with Linux.”

      Good thing Valve continues to boost war efforts by continuing to operate in Russia, and allowing pro-russia propaganda on steam forums.

  • FrankB

    ironic considering how useful the Russian government found Facebook as tool for spreading the misinformation that led to the rise of Trump & separating the UK from the EU.
    Personally i’d be happy if Facebook was banned everywhere, it’s a cesspit.

    • VR5

      While I’m sure Russian troll factories did their part to spread misinformation (on all social media and the internet at large), local alt right agitators like Breitbart also spread fake news to win votes for their side. It is hard to tell if they would have succeeded without Russia but it is outright naive to pin the damage on Russia and FB alone.

      You need people willing to believe the lies. FB is not making people right wing and if you ban FB, right wingers will find somewhere else to find the lies they seek.

    • Corellianrogue

      Complete nonsense. Some Russians on Facebook were buying click-bait ads targetting both sides so that they could make money off them. There were very few of them and they were caught before they could make much if any money from them anyway. They had no effect on the election whatsoever. The USA elected Trump because of his policies (unfortunately he didn’t fulfill all of them) and because Hilary Clinton is evil so most people didn’t want to vote for her.

      Here in the UK we voted for Brexit because we’ve wanted it for decades and the EU is illegitimate and evil and in fact it was illegal for the government to have us join it in the first place. It’s treason. Plus the EU was created by the Nazis as a “plan B” and taken over by the Communists and was supposed to become the EUSSR but the USSR collapsed before they could complete their plan. All documented facts. The only thought of Russia anyone voting for Brexit had was thinking about the USSR and not wanting to end up like that.

      • sfmike

        Sad to see the QAnon mentality is alive and well in the UK.

        • Tabp

          OK, I’ve been deliberately ignoring this QAnon stuff for too long. I keep seeing democrats bringing it up, and a quick look at the wikipedia article doesn’t show how it’s relevant here. Can you explain “QAnon mentality” and why the post you replied to is an example of it, or are you a conspiracy theorist?

          • Corellianrogue

            Funnily enough I actually saw Q’s posts when they first appeared. I have no idea whether it was the same person who was making later posts and if they were a troll or disinformation or whatever they were. But I never took much notice of them them beyond “Huh, that’s interesting. I wonder if it’s true.” and many others just seemed to think the same thing. They were no different than any other anons really. There were of course a few people that took them especially seriously, or at least claimed to. I found it really strange when the MSM kept talking about them. It would be like if the MSM started talking about my personal posts out of the blue.

          • Ben Jacobs

            “There were of course a few people that took them especially seriously” – A few?

            “Trust the plan” was pretty prevelant on the internet at the time.

          • Corellianrogue

            When I said “a few” I meant on a global scale. Not like just a dozen or something. Also, “trust the plan” became a meme, so probably at least half the people saying it were just saying it jokingly.

          • Ben Jacobs

            When I questioned your use of “a few” I assumed you meant on a global scale.

            We’re talking about a group who were well represented by Q merch on Jan 6th. (couldn’t say how many weren’t repping).

            I’m just a little confused how one concludes it wasn’t a potential issue on this side of causality.

          • crim3

            It’s basically medieval thinking in 21st century.

          • Cl

            I dont know what it is, but ive seen it as a way for people to dismiss things they dont like. Kind of like how the media calls anything they dont like a consiracy theory.

        • Corellianrogue

          Sad to see another ignorant NPC in the world.

      • NL_VR

        i have nothing to say about facebook but this EUSSR thing sounds verry conspiracy.
        do you suffer of this EUSSR thing?
        What i heard many in UK regret leaving EU, and you brother countries on the island dont want to leave EU :P

        • Corellianrogue

          Russian defectors provided documented proof of the EUSSR plan plus the EU is set up almost identically to the USSR and its government is unelected. (At least by the public.) The only people elected by the public are the peripheral MEPs and they don’t really have any power since if they vote in a way the people in control of the EU don’t like then they simply ignore them and pass the policies anyway. But since most of the MEPs are from controlled parties most of the MEPs vote in support of whatever policies they’re presented anyway. (Or vote against if some policy that the EU doesn’t like has slipped through somehow.)

          • NL_VR

            as living in a EU-country i must say nothing of what you say seems right.

          • Corellianrogue

            So which candidate for President of the European Commission did you vote for?

          • NL_VR

            but the president eu commission doesnt have that power

          • Corellianrogue

            Who has the power then? There are 2 other presidential positions in the EU and they’re not elected by the public either. Oh and by the way, the founding President of the European Commission was a Nazi. That’s not a slur, he was literally a Nazi. The Nazi lawyer Walter Hallstein. Most famous for giving the Nazi’s “Greater Germany” speech.

          • NL_VR

            power over what are you refering to?
            what i mean in the beginning this souns lice conspiracy from people blaming personal failury on somebody else, much like the russians been thought to do,

          • Tabp

            The EU is a governmental organization, so it has power within its jurisdiction, and the issue is over how much it should be allowed to get. By “personal failury” aren’t you saying people who don’t like EU policy should set their own local policies separately from the EU? That’s a pro-Brexit stance.

          • NL_VR

            i dont know anything about brexit, what i just see is a bunch of brittish people yelling at each other :D

      • Jeeses wept you people are lunatics. The UK leaving the EU is a joke, just like all the nonsense you are sprouting. “All documented facts” absolute lemon. Ironic saying the EU was a Nazi plan B when the people who voted for Brexit were either racists or/and out of touch boomers and old people who live in fear of their own shadows.

        • Corellianrogue

          Another total moron NPC. Go worship the NWO and remember to wear 5 masks, take your 10th booster shot and campaign for total censorship of the internet and life in general!

    • Tabp

      Blaming others for what your own side did again. Trump appeared due to anti-establishment backlash against the major parties and Democrats pushing a particularly controversial dynasty candidate (while rigging their primaries to do it, see Bernie’s case). If you keep doubling down on anti-populism, you’re going to generate more backlash leaders. Brexit happened because the EU was turning into an imperial organization favoring certain factions while depriving citizens of adequate representation and starting up talk of using an EU army to enforce policy. Brexit reversed that process. Facebook may be a cesspit, but it’s quite ironic to advocate copying Russia’s policy of banning while complaining about Russian propaganda.

      • VR5

        That’s a stupid argument to make, “don’t fight the right wingers, it will only make them stronger”. It also makes them more open about their intentions and moderate voters are waking up to the fascist movement spear headed by Trump. It makes them see that this fascist Republican party needs to be opposed.

        • Tabp

          Your use of fascist tactics, promotion of fascist policies, and bigotry are attacks against moderates. You sabotage every effort we make towards peace and equality. Now we have to deal with “anti-war” and “anti-imperialism” activists saying “abolish NATO” in response to Russia’s invasion, while people who call themselves progressives want to imitate China’s fascist-style government. Venezuela’s opposition leader was called centre-left by most of the world, and far-right by some of your politicians.

          • VR5

            You’re trying to construe a simple “us” vs. “them” fantasy, scapegoating “them” and idealizing yourself. Political opinions are diverse, left and right are relative to where you stand, and your belief doesn’t make your fairytale of heroes vs. villains fact. Speak for yourself or clearly identify who you mean by “we”. Don’t randomly accuse me of shit by trying to make me part of an undefined group.

            And don’t defend supporters of fascism by doing the childish “no, you are” routine. You can’t fight fascism by voting fascism. Trump and the republicans’ fascism is evident in their actions, passing laws to suppress votes, censoring education and interfering with bodily autonomy.

            No authoritarian tendency on the left has even gotten the chance to be expressed in a law, disregarding how it isn’t represented in elected politicians. If you’re afraid of any concrete authoritarian idea, name it, we can talk about it. But the actual authoritarian problems are the ones already installed in law and elected offices.

          • Tabp

            Your earlier post was an “us vs. them” argument. It’s dishonest to say it’s “childish” to criticize fascism if the practitioner accused others of fascism first. This is a common tactic for hypocrites such as antifa: accuse others of what you are doing yourself, so criticism of it can be ignored because it’s “no you.”

            “No authoritarian tendency on the left has even gotten the chance to be expressed in a law” is peak bigotry and lying. Just like how all those Communist revolutions weren’t true Communism, so all those mass killings didn’t count, right? Is the plan “nothing outside the US counts, and anything in the US that wasn’t recent enough doesn’t count, and if it was in the US and recent then whichever leftist did it doesn’t count, and finally the left doesn’t even exist”? Since you want clear definitions, can you define the left?

            Re: votes, when I suggest using voter ID to ensure all minorities receive free photo ID, leftists often get upset without any valid argument against it, while the right seems to be ok with paying taxes to give minorities ID. Mexico and India already do it, so the logistics are doable. What explanation is there other than that the party that has been running all those urban black ghettos for decades isn’t interested in changing the status quo that gives them a huge percentage of those votes due to welfare dependence? Also, voting security is necessary to voting rights, Trump running his mouth with no evidence to back it up doesn’t change that, and remember Russian election interference, wouldn’t they want to vote in other countries’ elections now with the war on?

            Re: education, you’re likely talking about critical race theory, which is racist itself, and designed to spread racial conflict so that rich and powerful elites can divide and conquer. Re: abortion, I do believe it’s necessary to keep it legal, but the issue was historically not correlated with fascism, e.g the Nazis encouraged abortions for demographics they didn’t like, Communist China banned it, and the USSR flip-flopped depending on population growth targets.

          • Tabp

            While trying to avoid making that even more tl;dr I forgot to mention: “There hasn’t been and never will be any voting fraud” is something only people who expect to benefit from fraud would say. No party should ever be trusted, and voting results need to be proven as rigorously as a case in a court of law would be. Look who’s saying “just trust me”: both American parties, but only one refuses to discuss security.

          • VR5

            You wrote a lot and I won’t respond to it all. But to give an example of how you simply don’t bother to keep to the point and address what I actually said: when Nazis (or anyone else) force someone to abort, that is against bodily autonomy. The person with the body needs to decide if they want an abortion. Or gender affirming treatment. I was not talking about abortion specifically.

          • Tabp

            You’re not responding to the main points because your false claims were exposed and you have no counterargument.

            My statement on abortion addressed what you said, and you’re trying to change the point now. You said “interfering with bodily autonomy” means “fascism is evident”, and I pointed out that communist governments did it, proving such policies occur on the far left and in the Soviet government that pushed “anti-fascism” as an organized movement. The Nazis’ use of abortion for eugenics was in direct conflict with the US right’s anti-abortion stance, so that’s a difference between them, which undermines your attempt to call their stance on it fascism.

            “Bodily autonomy” as a political position was about abortion when I’ve seen the phrase before. Transsexuality is also a subject where today’s US right’s stance is different from that of the nazis (who were relevant as modern theory on it emerged in the Weimar Republic and became an issue during the rise of the nazis, something not lost on neo-nazis who bash Trump by calling him a “Jewish puppet”).

          • Tabp

            To add to the post below, I didn’t think of this yesterday, but the US right could claim claim abortion is a violation of the fetus’ bodily autonomy. I would counterargue that I don’t consider the fetus sufficiently developed to be independent, but they do, and by doing so they can position themselves as pro-autonomy in the abortion case. They could make a similar argument for child transsexuality below the age of consent.

          • Tabp

            Oh yeah, I realized another one, the principle of bodily autonomy is in favor of vaccine-refusers. The person with the body needs to decide if they want an injection, right?

    • Arturs Gerskovics

      Russia helped seperating UK from EU… Whate are you smoking?

    • Lucidfeuer

      You’re wrong about the Russian involvement in the Trump election, Facebook itself was directly involved and right now they’re starting to temper the french election like they did last time. So I praised your last comment which that Facebook is the most dangerous and destructive company today and should be banned.

  • xyzs

    That’s frightening to see how much products can be made are more or less dead depending on what is decided on the other side of the world by a few people…

  • Corellianrogue

    I don’t know about recently (as in pre-war, let alone now) but it was possible to not only easily but relatively cheaply buy the Oculus Quest 2 from Russia. My Russian friend bought it from Amazon US at launch (well, pre-ordered actually, otherwise she would have had to wait for the 2nd or 3rd batches and probably after that Christmas) and it took less than a week to get to her and at least half of that time was spent waiting for Russian customs to clear it. (And they charged her a bit, despite Amazon saying it was taking care of the customs as part of the shipping costs.)

    Even with the shipping and extra customs charge it cost less than what Russian shops were later charging for it. In fact it either cost her the same or possibly even slightly less than what it costs here in the UK since it cost her around 30,000 rubles, so around £300 at the time, depending on the exact amount and the the exact exchange rate on the day. (She bought the 64GB version, which costs £299 in the UK.) I can’t remember the exact amount she paid as she also bought a 5m USB 3 cable to go with it for PC VR. (Active I think, so that it works properly over 3m.)

  • Jonathan Winters III

    I wonder what the average Russian FB user things about all this?

    • Alex Makes 3D

      I am a user from Russia. I didn’t use Facebook to communicate. But I really liked Quest 2! I had a dream to make a game for Quest, but now, apparently, this dream will not come true …(

      • Clownworld14

        sorry to hear. But know that there are some westerners that are not mindless zombies consuming media lies. Some of us actually think. I hope our government stops this aggressive bs soon.

        • Alex Makes 3D

          Thank you friend!)

  • Tabp

    Interesting article. All those Facebook shills who tried to deny the risk posed by the Quest’s dependence on Facebook service have been exposed yet again. Unlike the times when Facebook had server outages, there’s no simple way to repair this.

    If you don’t have independent control over your own hardware, you have a problem. That’s especially true if you’re some sort of business, content creator, or service provider that can’t operate secretly.

    • NL_VR

      rely on facebook if you run a bussiness is the worst thing you can do, belive me.
      They can end you bussniness within seconds, so i dont recommend anyone

      • ViRGiN

        “your business” would never exist without facebook, so there is that. make better products/services. uber eats sucks, yet everyone is using it huh?

        • NL_VR

          yes it works verry well without Facebook.
          if facebook can even nearly “terminate” your bussiness because you write something their AI dont understand you in big trouble.
          dont put your self in that position. Im sorry but your Facebook Fanboysm makes you dont know what you even talk about here.

          • ViRGiN

            fanboyism LOL! millions of companies every day are relying on facebook outreach. i dont even use facebook for years you crazy nut. stop worshipping valve.

          • NL_VR

            yes like companys selling crap or fake stuff for stupid facebook audience.
            Crybaby it has nothing to do with Valve. Yes you are so deep in fanboyism you cant stand someone not liking facebook even because its your fanboyu company “Meta”

          • ViRGiN

            Yeah totally not about valve..
            Dude get over it. Your valve index is obsolete.

          • NL_VR

            I dont have an index. And again you are so deep fanboy you cant se clear.
            Everybody sees this except you, crying out on every news page.

          • ViRGiN

            … and you take the bait every single time?

  • Tommy

    Just use a VPN to play. Not sure how to purchase games though.

  • Raphael

    Banning facebook and instagram may result in a smarter, happier Russian society. Now might be a good time to relocate from the UK. Yes I know the “special operation” is under way but hopefully Putin will lose that one soon.

  • And, you see, this is the problem, not Russia but Facebook requiring you to have a Facebook account to just use the frikin’ headset. If this were a product that once you bought and paid for it that you could use it as you see fit, this kind of issue couldn’t exist. Sure, stores might go down, but all the rest would be fine.

  • Lucidfeuer

    Lots of companies are quitting Russia therefor acting as political proxies for western hegemonic (imperialist) strategies. But if there’s one company that you’d want to take advantage into banning, that’s Facebook. It was certain they would ban them, and it’s one of the best thing that can happen to Russia. Well except for the lack of alternative news social networks if Twitter or else was to disappear, but FB, what a boon for them