March 14, 2022

Russia was expected to ban Instagram early Monday. Roskomnadzor, Russia’s communications regulator, said, “We need to ensure the psychological health of citizens, especially children and adolescents, to protect them from harassment and insults online.”

In a video response, Instagram head Adam Mosseri said, “The Russian government has decided to block Instagram in Russia, cutting off millions of people from loved ones and friends around the world. We know that over 80 percent of people in Russia on Instagram follow an account from outside of Russia. The situation is terrifying, and we are trying to do all we can to keep people safe.”

The Washington Post’s Paul Sonne and Mary Ilyushina wrote, “The ban on Instagram is the latest example of how Russia’s citizens are being isolated from the rest of the world as a result of Moscow’s war against Ukraine. Since Russian President Vladimir Putin launched the invasion on Feb. 24, his government has also pulled the plug on Russia’s opposition-oriented radio and television networks, part of a broader effort to squelch domestic dissent in response to the war. Thousands of Russians have been arrested for attempting to protest the invasion.”

It’s believed that Russia has somewhere between 60 to 80 million Instagram users.

Instagram is owned by Meta, which also owns Facebook. Russia had already banned Facebook on March 4.

Last week, Meta said it would temporarily change its hate speech policy, applied only to Ukraine, in the wake of Russia’s invasion. Messages such as, “Death to Russian invaders” would be allowed. Sonne and Ilyushina wrote, “The U.S. company made an exception to its policy against inciting violence, so long as the posts represented political expression against Russian forces invading Ukraine. Meta said calls for violence against ordinary Russian citizens would remain prohibited.”

Still getting info

While the Russian government is doing its best to limit (and control) what information is getting to its citizens, a new website is working to get around the Kremlin and get the real story to individuals in Russia.

The Wall Street Journal’s Bojan Pancevski reports that a website developed by programmers in Poland obtained 20 million cellphone numbers and 140 million email addresses of Russian individuals and companies. Pancevski wrote, “The site randomly generates numbers and addresses from those databases and allows anyone anywhere in the world to message them, with the option of using a pre-drafted message in Russian that calls on people to bypass President Vladimir Putin’s censorship of the media. Since it was launched on March 6, thousands of people across the globe, including many in the U.S., have used the site to send millions of messages in Russian, footage from the war, or images of Western media coverage documenting Russia’s assault on civilians, according to Squad303, as the group that wrote the tool calls itself.”

A spokesperson for Squad303 told the Journal, “Our aim was to break through Putin’s digital wall of censorship and make sure that Russian people are not totally cut off from the world and the reality of what Russia is doing in Ukraine.”

It’s not known, exactly, how effective these messages are and there could be a serious downside.

The Journal wrote, “Receiving such messages could present risks for some residents of Russia. Russian police were filmed checking people’s mobile phones and reading their communication following a string of antiwar protests in recent days.”

Notable pieces about Ukraine

Bizarre comments

During her “Sunday Mornings Futures” show on Fox News, anchor Maria Bartiromo made an eyebrow-raising comment about President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Bartiromo said, “Some people have told me over the weekend that they feel that, at the end of the day, this administration does not see Putin as the enemy, they see him as a partner … on many issues. They see him as a partner on climate change. They see him as a partner on the Iran deal. When is this administration going to get serious in telling Vladimir Putin, ‘We are done with partnerships.’ That means no Iran deal, walk away, no more renegotiating on America’s behalf. No more products from Russia … truly a pariah for the world. But we’re not there yet.”

For Bartiromo to suggest Biden “does not see Putin as the enemy” and that he sees him “as a partner” is misleading and journalistically irresponsible. And especially so when you consider how Bartiromo has frequently had cozy interviews with former President Donald Trump, who has praised Putin in the past.

Bartiromo’s remarks came while she was interviewing South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, who told Bartiromo, “The Biden administration looks at Putin as a partner for climate change and an Iran deal-maker rather than a war criminal. Biden is more afraid of Putin losing than he is excited about Ukraine winning. Let you hear it from me. Victory for Ukraine!”

The Daily Beast’s Justin Baragona has more on the interview.

Baragona also tweeted out Bartiromo’s remarks about the Biden administration seeing Putin not as an enemy, but as a partner on many issues. MSNBC’s Stephanie Ruhle retweeted Baragona’s tweet and wrote, “For every female business journalist watching this downward spiral, it’s like believing in Batman all your life & then one day realizing…he’s actually The Joker.”

Ruhle later tweeted, “I cannot wrap my head around it.”

Sad news

Actor William Hurt in 2016. (Rich Fury/Invision/AP)

Actor William Hurt, who won a Best Actor Oscar in 1986 for his performance in “Kiss of the Spider Woman,” has died. He would have been 72 next week. The cause of death was not revealed, but Hurt was diagnosed with terminal prostate cancer in 2018. (Variety’s Brent Lang and J. Kim Murphy have an obit.)

While he’s known for a brilliant career that included parts in “The Big Chill,” “Children of a Lesser God,” “Gorky Park” and “Body Heat” and dozens of others, he might be best remembered by many for playing the part of a journalist in 1987’s “Broadcast News.” Alongside Holly Hunter and Albert Brooks, Hurt played a TV anchor/reporter who had the good looks and charisma — if not the journalistic chops — to be a star network news personality. His performance earned him a Best Actor Oscar nomination.

Most of you likely have seen “Broadcast News,” but if you haven’t, watch it immediately. It’s wickedly funny, and Hurt is great. And, by the way, when I did my list of the best 25 movies about journalism in 2018, “Broadcast News” came in at No. 2.

Hurt also was in another movie with journalism ties. In 1981, he starred in “Eyewitness.” Hurt played a janitor who was infatuated with a TV news reporter played by Sigourney Weaver. Hurt’s character lets on that he knows more about the murder of a wealthy businessman than he actually does so he can get closer to Weaver’s character, who is investigating the murder.

Buck expected to go to ESPN

Sports broadcaster Joe Buck in 2019. (AP Photo/Michael Ainsworth, File)

The big-time shuffling involving some of the NFL’s top broadcasters has been almost as exciting as the transactions involving some of the league’s top quarterbacks. (I said almost.)

The big move came earlier this month when Troy Aikman, perhaps the best analyst in the NFL at the moment, left Fox Sports for a reported five-year, $92.5 million deal to call “Monday Night Football” for ESPN.

Now it appears his longtime Fox Sports partner, Joe Buck, is joining him on “MNF.” The New York Post’s Andrew Marchand broke the news that Fox Sports has given Buck permission to talk to ESPN. (Buck has one year left on his deal with Fox, but Fox is willing to let Buck out of his deal.)

Buck’s move is a big one. He is only 52, but the son of legendary announcer Jack Buck has been at Fox Sports since 1994 and has become the network’s top sports play-by-play voice. He has called 24 World Series and six Super Bowls for Fox. Sources tell Marchand that he is expected to sign a contract in the five-year, $60-$75 million range with ESPN.

Clearly, by spending this kind of money, ESPN is trying to pump some pizzazz into “Monday Night Football,” where the most recent broadcast team of Steve Levy-Louis Riddick-Brian Griese was good but not spectacular. What’s interesting, however, is ESPN will surely highlight the Buck-Aikman tandem on ESPN, while still having the Manning Brothers do their ManningCast many weeks on ESPN2. It should be noted that ESPN/ABC have the Super Bowl next in 2027.

But Fox Sports has two of the next three Super Bowls, including next season — and it just lost its A-team. Several reports say Kevin Burkhardt, who already calls games for Fox Sports, is in line to replace Buck. As far as replacing Aikman, Fox could go with Greg Olsen, who already works with Burkhardt.

Meanwhile, other moves in the NFL announcing world: Amazon announced last week that Kirk Herbstreit will be the color analyst on “Thursday Night Football.” Herbstreit will continue working as ESPN’s top college football analyst. Al Michaels, probably the best NFL play-by-play guy of all time and still on top of his game at age 77, is likely to sign a three-year, $33-million deal to be Amazon’s play-by-play announcer.

Actually, come to think of it, this stuff might be more interesting than the quarterback shuffle in the NFL. Then again, here’s the sports tweet of the day from the GOAT himself, Tom Brady:

“These past two months I’ve realized my place is still on the field and not in the stands. That time will come. But it’s not now. I love my teammates, and I love my supportive family. They make it all possible. I’m coming back for my 23rd season in Tampa. Unfinished business.”


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Tom Jones is Poynter’s senior media writer for He was previously part of the Tampa Bay Times family during three stints over some 30…
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