The real reason Russia is blocking Facebook: The Kremlin’s crackdown isn’t about the social network. It’s a gambit with a broader aim.

Russia’s Internet censorship agency announced on Friday that it plans to block access to Facebook throughout the country, joining a small handful of the world’s most repressive regimes in cutting off its citizens from the world’s largest social network. In an Orwellian twist, the agency, called Roskomnadzor, said it made the move to uphold the free flow of information, blaming Facebook for restrictions it has placed on Russian state media outlets in recent days.

Of course, blocking Facebook isn’t really about upholding free speech for Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has spent years eroding press and online freedoms and arresting protesters. But contrary to what Western observers might assume, it also isn’t really about restricting Russians’ access to social media — at least, not directly. It’s an act of intimidation aimed at bringing other social networks to heel.

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