Russian internet company called to free unjustly convicted internet users

In Russia new trend gathers pace – Russian enforcement authorities have special departments combating extremism. Officers from these departments are sitting all days long in Russian social networks, like Vkontake or odnoklassniki (classmates) and searching for extremist materials. Foreign social networks, like Facebook, are not so interesting for them for one simple reason – Russian social network provide all necessary information in order to prosecute the person.

In order to receive necessary information (personal details like phone number linked to person’s ID) enforcement authorities have to provide the foreign social network with court order at least, but Russian social network can provide such information just under ordinary request. Therefore the main target of Russian enforcement authorities is Russian social networks and their users. Users very often publish memes or images taken from internet. Sometimes they don’t even remember where such pictures have been taken from. Sometimes they forget about these pictures.

But officers from department, combating extremism, are scanning all personal profiles in social networks. And even if users did not publish image in question, but simple reposted such image, they can be accused and prosecuted. Russian legal practice already has such examples. Sometimes accused internet users don’t even have opportunity to hire a lawyer, because they don’t have enough money or don’t have opportunity to communicate with outside world until they confess. Lawyer by appointment (state lawyer, provided by state for free) is very dangerous for accused person, because such lawyer also requires confessing in order to save time and money.

Therefore some internet users decided to delete their profiles from Russian social networks. Because any picture or post can be interpreted as extremist and entail prison term or much worst thing – such person can be admitted as extremist and all his/her bank accounts will be blocked, such person would not find any job, would not receive loan and the life of such person can become the nightmare. It is possible to find many examples in Russian mass media. Such situation must be taken from different points of view, but the result is terrific – criminal case for reposting of image in social network.

Russian internet company is the owner of major Russian social networks Vkontakte and Odnoklassniki. This company believes the opportunity to share information with others is the main and core value of social networks. The company is a witness how the practice of prosecution for likes and reposts in social networks takes a pace. believes very often the deeds of enforcement authorities do not correspond to potential threat and their reaction to posts, likes or memes in feeds are very cruel.

The company recalls changing the Russian legislation and enforcement practice. The company requires freeing unjustly convicted persons for reposts, likes or memes, and decriminalizing such cases in future. But the Russian courts, especially in different provincial districts, take such cases very seriously. Many experts working very hard in order to evaluate material considered in court. Internet user can be prosecuted even if the court, or the prosecutor, or investigator does not understand the humor reflected or implied in material. It does not concern the cases when there is a real threat to national security or public order.