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.

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Comments on “Russia Imprisoning Dozens Of Social Media Critics For 'Hate Speech'”

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25 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

Many of the activists pushing for hate speech laws are creating countless one-eyed kings. This will only come back to bite them and not in a way that helps anyone who cares about freedom of speech. Actual freedom of speech, not the Orwellian “un-Addition of CrimeThink from SocMed so GoodThink can doubleplusspeak!”

All aboard the train to rock bottom!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

O please, they don’t give a shit. As long as they can take down a single person NOT associated with their brand they would commit to a Pyrrhic victory without so much as a single thought.

The is not rationale or reasoning with these folks. Just like pearls before swine… all will be trampled under foot!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

@ anon cow 10:59
thank you, i have been trying to make this very point to various sjw’s who only consider that some meanie made a less-than-complimentary comment about them/whoever, and -of course- they must be stopped ! ! !
stupid shits dont realize they are slitting their own throats, free-speech-wise…

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Doesn't this smack of Louisiana saying that action against police is now regarded a hate crime?

When we decide something is hate speech, usually the people in power get to decide what speech is acceptable and what isn’t.

Thoughout the nineties, anti-gay rhetoric was not considered hate speech since it was religious. But Islamic religious-based speech disparaging western culture was still regarded as hate speech.

So…yeah. Hate speech is just a device to inhibit free speech. We let the Nazis talk so that we know we can talk when we want.

Wendy Cockcroft (user link) says:

Re: Re: Doesn't this smack of Louisiana saying that action against police is now regarded a hate crime?

Well, YOU get it. However, the idea of counter-speech is not enough. There needs to be some kind of service or organisation that is willing and able to make that speech on behalf of people who aren’t popular enough that other people will stick up for them. Generally speaking, to be a target is to be alone.

Anonymous Coward says:

Western European countries such as Germany have for decades enforced a zero-tolerance approach toward so-called “hate speech” which includes everything from shouting “Heil Hitler” in public (even in jest) to questioning aspects of WWII history, actions that frequently send people to prison for years, especially for internet “hate crimes” committed by people who mistakenly thought they could express opinions anonymously online. Now that Russia appears to be jumping on the “hate speech” bandwagon, and threatens to surpass the draconian level of German prosecutions, people should be afraid. Prisons in Russia are much worse than prisons in Germany, though not nearly as bad as prisons in the US.

Wendy Cockcroft (user link) says:

Re: Abuse is their intent

We’ve got a frog-in-a-pot situation in this country (UK) at the moment: Saying Mean Things About People will get you arrested or put in jail if you post it on a blog, in social media, or wear it on a tshirt.

Okay, that’s for insulting $group. I was going to ask what happens when it stops being about footballers having heart attacks on the pitch, etc., and starts being about UKIP membership consisting of prats till I realised we’re already there.

http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2014/may/12/police-ask-blogger-remove-legitimate-tweet-ukip

Oh, goodie.

Personanongrata says:

Pot Kettle Black Part Trois

Russia Imprisoning Dozens Of Social Media Critics For ‘Hate Speech’

The US government is no better.

The paragraphs below are excerpted from a Human Rights Watch report titled
Illusion of Justice Human Rights Abuses in US Terrorism Prosecutions

We documented the following patterns that raise serious human rights concerns:

Discriminatory investigations, often targeting particularly vulnerable individuals (including people with intellectual and mental disabilities and the indigent), in which the government—often acting through informants—is actively involved in developing the plot, persuading and sometimes pressuring the target to participate, and providing the resources to carry it out.

Use of overly broad material support charges, punishing behavior that did not demonstrate intent to support terrorism.

Prosecutorial tactics that may violate fair trial rights, such as introducing prejudicial evidence—including evidence obtained by coercion, classified evidence that cannot be fairly contested, and inflammatory evidence about terrorism in which defendants played no part; and limited ability to challenge surveillance warrants due to excessive government secrecy.

Harsh and at times abusive conditions of confinement, which often appear excessive in relation to the security risk posed. These include:

Prolonged solitary confinement and severe restrictions on communicating in pretrial detention, possibly impeding defendants’ ability to assist in their own defense and contributing to their pleading guilty.

Excessive lengthening of sentences and draconian conditions post-conviction, including prolonged solitary confinement and severe restrictions on contact with families or others, sometimes without explanation or recourse. One detainee called it “a touch of hell”: “My children… could see, but not touch me as though I had some sort of contagious disease.”

https://www.hrw.org/report/2014/07/21/illusion-justice/human-rights-abuses-us-terrorism-prosecutions

orbitalinsertion (profile) says:

Re: Pot Kettle Black Part Trois

This isn’t a propaganda op of the US gov. Rather, independent thinkers who recognize bullshit everywhere. It isn’t the job of every article to report on some “other side” when pointing out current news of some insane bullshit somewhere. With the apparent desire for some tone that makes what Subject A does somehow “less bad”. Fk this tu quoque noise. It is readily and regularly discussed here how ridiculous the US gov (or what/whom ever) are in this or other matters.

Anonymous Coward says:

Government is your friend

One of those 12 friends was the government. Remember people, The Government is Your Friend. The government is there to make sure you don’t put a toe out of line. If you do, the government will be there to catch you and show you the error of your ways. Just like any True Friend would do!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Government is your friend

You know… it would be nice if it were true.
But the government will just send a couple of goons to arrest and beat the living shit out of you.
And people around you will be biased simply because you’re handcuffed therefore “you must have done something wrong”.

Even at J. Edgar Hoover’s peak corruption wasn’t this bad.

I’m afraid the U.S. is turning to authoritarian policies for ordinary citizens leaving justice and due process only accessible to the elite.

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