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Censor the censor Facebook targets Roskomnadzor official over hate speech

Maxim Ksenzov. Photo: Pavel Bednyakov / TASS

Facebook has deleted a post written by Maxim Ksenzov, the deputy head of Roskomnadzor, a government agency which monitors and censors media in Russia. Notably, Ksenzov is the very same official who warned Facebook back in May that the company will face penalties if it does not hand over traffic statistics for popular Russian Facebook users to the Russian government. While Ksenzov's page may have gotten a lot of clicks after his controversial post, he's given up his chance of becoming a popular Facebook blogger by deleting his account altogether.

After his post was taken down, Ksenzov disclosed to the media that he had used the pejorative term khokhly in the text. The word is sometimes used by Russians to denote “ethnic Ukrainians" and is considered derogatory. The term originally referred to a traditional Cossack hairstyle featuring a single lock of hair on an otherwise bald head.

A cached version of Ksenzov’s deleted message, posted on July 2, reads: “I was brought up as an internationalist. All, I emphasize ALL people are equal, are brothers, etc. But now that’s become an inappropriate word. Now, ‘tolerance’ is fashionable (I’m not speaking about religion here). But I don’t want to be tolerant!! The Soviet people are the Soviet people, khokhly will be khokhly)) The second of closing brackets is a Russian abbreviation of a smiley face.

News website RBC reports that over the past several days, Facebook has started to systematically delete posts featuring the word and to block accounts of those who use it. For example, a post by Russian writer Eduard Bagirov, in which he compared Russians to “those poor khokhly,” was also recently removed. These actions seem to be in line with Facebook’s new community standards banning hate speech.

The day after the incident, Ksenzov announced on Twitter that he is deleting his Facebook account, adding “I am absolutely not complaining. It’s just a shame that I won’t be able to read my friends… But there is interesting stuff on other great resources.” 

RBC reports that Ksenzov said governments are less malignant than companies like Facebook: “I always said that various [private website] administrators are much more harsh and cynical than government structures, since they are not limited by any framework.” Ksenzov noted that “it’s funny” that he was often called khokhol due to his Ukrainian origins.

Roskomnadzor representative Vadim Ampelonsky told newspaper Izvestia that the agency has “unofficially” contacted Facebook and asked about the rules imposed on Russian Facebook users. The Roskomnadzor official wants Facebook to play fair: "we hope that Facebook's rules will be objective and will apply in the same way towards all pejorative language that demeans the national pride of any people.”