A Russian Internet services company has called on authorities to change legislation criminalizing hate speech on social media and to grant amnesty to those who have been “unjustly convicted” under it.
“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 Mail.Ru Group, whose businesses include a popular e-mail service and a search engine, is controlled by Kremlin-friendly oligarch Alisher Usmanov.
Its statement comes amid a broadening Russian crackdown on online speech in recent years that rights advocates say is being used to stifle dissent and help law enforcement officials rack up convictions.
On August 6, a woman went on trial in Barnaul, capital of the Altai Krai in southern Siberia, over social-media memes that prosecutors allege contained hate speech and insulted religious believers.
Maria Motuznaya, 23, was charged with inciting racial hatred and insulting the feelings of religious believers after two women complained to police about pictures posted on her account on the social network VKontakte.
Police searched her home in May.
Motuznaya faces up to five years in prison if convicted.
She is one of at least two people in Barnaul to be charged recently with inciting hatred and insulting the religious feelings of believers.
Daniil Markin, a 19-year-old film student, was charged with inciting hate speech over a VKontakte meme likening Jesus Christ to Jon Snow, a character in the internationally popular U.S. television show Game Of Thrones.