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A Russian ‘anti-extremism’ police officer says he managed in just an hour to review 14,000 images shared on social media

Source: Meduza

The “anti-extremism” police officer who investigated the case against a woman living in Barnaul claimed in court on Tuesday that he managed in a single hour to view all 14,000 images she posted on Vkontakte. Twenty-three-year-old Maria Motuznaya is accused of inciting extremism by sharing several pictures on Vkontakte that allegedly promoted racism and insensitivity to religious people — violations of Russia’s criminal codes 282 and 148. On August 28, officer Vadim Strelkov reportedly told the judge that he couldn’t remember how he accomplished this feat, but he definitely pulled it off, he said. Strelkov also said that Motuznaya signed a confession.

At Tuesday’s hearing, two local law students testified against Motuznaya, summarizing their initial reports to the police. The two young women, who are also witnesses against another local extremism suspect, appeared in closed court, to protect them from threats they’ve allegedly received because of their role as informants.

Why are the Russian police so concerned about online hate speech?

The growing number of extremism prosecutions is, to some extent, a consequence of Russia’s exploding Internet use. “More people have started using the Internet. We used to analyze books, leaflets, and posters. When everyone moved online, we started looking at Internet content, and that’s where we stumbled into this uncharted territory,” Igor Ogorelkov told Meduza in May. The head of the linguistics department at a center that provides expert testimony to Russian law enforcement, Ogorelkov admitted that Russian extremism policing is still chaotic.

At the same time, new laws criminalizing forms of offensive speech found commonly online (racist jokes, sacrilegious memes, and so on) have armed the authorities with tools that make it easy to prosecute young, typically impressionable suspects. In January 2016, for example, the website MediaZona reported that police have exploited Russia’s “information laws” to pad their solved-crime statistics, charging Internet users who share pornography and bullying them into plea bargains.

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