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article imageRussian internet group protests prosecutions for 'likes'

By AFP     Aug 6, 2018 in Internet

The Russian company that owns the country's most popular social media network on Monday expressed concern at the increasing number of internet users facing prosecution for liking and sharing content online.

"We see that in many regions of our country it is becoming popular to start criminal proceedings against (internet) users for likes and shares on social media," Mail.ru, which is owned by billionaire Alisher Usmanov, said in a statement.

The group, which owns Russia's most popular social network VK as well as the widely used Odnoklassniki, called for the country's internet laws to be changed.

"Too often the actions of law enforcement agencies clearly do not correspond to the potential threat and their reaction to posts or memes are groundlessly harsh," Mail.ru said.

"We are convinced that the legislation and the way the law is enforced in practice should be changed," it added.

The group also called for an "amnesty" for "those who were unjustly convicted and serving time on such charges."

The statement comes as a 23-year-old woman went on trial in Siberia over social media memes that prosecutors claim incited hatred and insulted religious believers.

Maria Motuznaya went on trial in Barnaul, the main city in the Siberian Altai region, on Monday for satirical memes she posted on VK.

If prosecuted, she faces up to six years in prison.

Motuznaya's case caused widespread outrage on Russian social media networks.

Russia has acted to curb internet freedoms as social media has become the main way to organise demonstrations.

Authorities stepped up the heat on popular websites after Vladimir Putin started his fourth Kremlin term in 2012, ostensibly to fight terrorism but analysts say the real motive was to muzzle Kremlin critics.

According to the independent rights group Agora, 43 people were given prison terms for internet posts in Russia in 2017.

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