Mail.ru, a company co-owned by Alisher Usmanov, has called for a change to Russia’s hate-speech legislation and amnesty for those already convicted under the law ‘unjustly’.
“We see how in many regions of our country the practice of opening criminal cases against users for likes and reposts on social networks is becoming popular,” Mail.ru Group said in a statement on August 6.
“Often the actions of law enforcement agencies clearly do not correspond to the potential threat, and their reaction to entries in comments sections or to memes in the news feed is unjustifiably harsh,” it added.
The move comes amid an increasing Russian crackdown on online speech that sees Maria Motuznaya, 23, facing up to five years in prison for sharing a meme that prosecutors allege ‘contained hate speech and insulted religious believers’ including the Russian Orthodoxy.
The charge came after two other women complained about images Motuznaya had on VKontakte, a site often called ‘the Russian Facebook’. VKontakte is owned by the mail.ru group.
Motuznaya is far from the only Russian to find themselves in trouble. 19-year-old Daniil Marking, a film student, was also charged with inciting hate speech after he likened the fictional character Jon Snow from Game of Thrones to Jesus. He also faces up to five years in prison.
The position of Mail.Ru Group on law enforcement practice in relation to users of social networks
In our country, tens of millions of people regularly use social networks. We daily share our thoughts with friends, discuss the news, put the likes, lay out photos and videos. The ability to share information is the greatest value of social networks.
We see how in many regions of our country the practice of instituting criminal proceedings against users for husks and reposts in social networks is becoming popular. Often, the actions of law enforcement agencies clearly do not correspond to the potential threat, and their reaction to notes in comments or memes in the tape proves to be unmotivatedly rigid.
We are convinced that the legislation and law enforcement practice should be changed. We consider necessary amnesty for the unjustly convicted, serving time for the relevant charges and decriminalizing such cases in the future.