Russian entrepreneur Alexander Zobov has announced that he is launching a homegrown version of Instagram following parent company Meta’s banning in the country over the Ukraine Invasion
The Russian alternative will be called Rossgram and its launch is scheduled for March 28. The app will be available for Android and IOS users.
“Right now you have the opportunity to become the first users with special privileges. First, access will be open to top bloggers and partners. Regular users will be able to access in April 2022,” says the company’s website.
Rossgram is expected to have all the same functions as Instagram, including photo and video publications, communicating through an in-built messenger, and leaving comments under other people’s posts.
The social media platform will, apparently, offer additional tools of monetization for bloggers through paid content, fundraising, and referral programs.
The company said initial access will be open to “sponsors and investors” and regular users will be able to access the platform from April.
Alexander Zobov is described on the website as a specialist in digital marketing and the creator of barter network “Web commune”. Rossgram’s second co-founder, Kirill Filimonov, is described as an entrepreneur and the CEO of a tourism company, “The Russian Italy”.
The initiative has received mixed reviews so far, with some commentators praising the startup, while others have criticized the company for its Russia-centric name, saying that Rossgram has no chances of expanding to the foreign markets.
Russian regulator Roskomnadzor announced its decision to block Meta’s Facebook and Instagram in the territory of the Russian Federation after the General Prosecutor’s office accused the American company of extremism for allowing calls for violence against Russian soldiers on Meta’s platforms.
Meta said the decision was made to protect the right to free speech as “an expression of self-defense in reaction to a military invasion of their country.” The company called it a temporary decision taken in extraordinary and unprecedented circumstances. It clarified the policy this week to say calls for violence were not allowed to be made against “Russians in general.”
Russia launched its military offensive against Ukraine on February 24, with Western countries instantly imposing a raft of unprecedented sanctions and Western companies pulling out of the country in droves.
As well as the troops we have seen on the ground in Ukraine, there is also a digital war raging as Russia attempts to take control of the narrative around the invasion of Ukraine.
An investigation by VICE News uncovered a coordinated campaign to pay Russian TikTok influencers to post videos pushing pro-Kremlin narratives about the war in Ukraine.
Numerous campaigns have been coordinated in a secret Telegram channel that directs these influencers on what to say, where to capture videos, what hashtags to use, and when exactly to post the video.
These campaigns were launched at the beginning of the invasion and have involved a number of the highest-profile influencers on TikTok, some of whom have over a million followers.
A growing number of millennials and Genz Russians are getting their information online and not from Russian controlled media. It’s increasingly difficult to influence what these young people think with such wide media consumption. This ban of Instagram and the launch on Rossgram is a move in the direction of more autocracy and centralised control.