Vkontake's parent company asks Russian officials to decriminalize harmless Internet content

Mail.ru Group, the parent company that owns Vkontakte and Odnoklassniki, has officially appealed to Russian state officials, requesting the decriminalization of harmless Internet content (including posts, reposts, “likes,” and comments). According to the website TJournal, the company addressed a letter to Russia's State Duma, Supreme Court, Justice Ministry, Human Rights Commission, Interior Ministry, and Federal Investigative Committee.

Mail.ru is also asking state officials to amnesty Internet users convicted of nonviolent crimes under Criminal Code articles 282 (extremist hate speech) and 148 (offending religious sensitivities). The company wants Russia’s Supreme Court to clarify proper judicial practices in criminal cases against Internet users, and it says the Justice Ministry must standardize the methodology used by specialists consulted in cases involving extremist and offensive speech. “It’s necessary because experts in different regions are evaluating [case] materials in different ways,” Mail.ru Group explains.

The company is also asking Russia’s Constitutional Court to review whether Criminal Code Article 282 (which outlaws extremist hate speech) violates the Constitution’s Article 29 (which ensures the freedom of thought and speech).

In recent years (and especially in recent weeks), police officers have opened criminal cases against Russian Internet users, typically charging individuals with hate speech, extremism, offending religious views, or propagating Nazism. The vast majority of these criminal cases are filed against users of Vkontakte, which surrenders virtually all personal data, whenever requested by law enforcement, according to human rights activists.

On August 6, Vkontakte’s parent company, Mail.ru, publicly condemnedthese prosecutions. Five days later, Vkontakte announced new options that will allow users greater privacy. The company also says it will publish a transparency report about the Russian government's requests for user data. Representatives for the company outlined the plan to the BBC.