Russia Imprisoning Dozens Of Social Media Critics For 'Hate Speech'
from the be-aware dept
We just wrote about the big social media companies agreeing to quickly take down content for “hate speech” in the EU, and warned about how problematic this was. The definition of “hate speech” matters quite a bit, and we’ve pointed out in the past how “hate speech” laws frequently morph into a tool for government censorship. So perhaps it should be no surprise at all that just around the same time that Google, Facebook, Twitter and Microsoft agreed to start censoring “hate speech” in the EU, we get another story from the Associated Press about how Russia is using its own hate speech laws to imprison dozens of critics who mocked the government on social media.
As the Kremlin claims unequivocal support among Russians for its policies both at home and abroad, a crackdown is underway against ordinary social media users who post things that run against the official narrative. Here the Kremlin’s interests coincide with those of investigators, who are anxious to report high conviction rates for extremism. The Kremlin didn’t immediately comment on the issue.
At least 54 people were sent to prison for hate speech last year, most of them for sharing and posting things online, which is almost five times as many as five years ago, according to the Moscow-based Sova group, which studies human rights, nationalism and xenophobia in Russia. The overall number of convictions for hate speech in Russia increased to 233 last year from 92 in 2010.
So what kind of “hate speech” on social media is now leading to Russians being sent to prison? Apparently anyone criticizing Russia’s involvement in Ukraine:
Several months after his arrest, Bubeyev pleaded guilty to inciting hatred toward Russians and was sentenced to a year in prison. His offense was sharing articles, photos and videos from Ukrainian nationalist groups, including those of the volunteer Azov battalion fighting Russia-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine. Among them was an article about the graves of Russian soldiers killed in Ukraine and a video describing Russia as a “fascist aggressor” and showing Russian tanks purportedly crossing into Ukraine.
Less than two weeks after the verdict, Bubeyev was charged again. This time, he was accused of calling for “acts of extremism” and “actions undermining Russia’s territorial integrity.” He had shared the picture of a toothpaste tube and also an article under the headline “Crimea is Ukraine” by a controversial blogger, who is in jail now, calling for military aggression against Russia.
And it’s not like this guy was a widely known individual. The article quotes his wife saying: “His page wasn’t popular ? he only had 12 friends.”
So for folks who think it’s a good idea for platforms to become the police over “hate speech,” take a moment and think about what your worst enemy would do if he or she were able to define what “hate speech” meant.