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Russian police say gay people aren't protected against hate speech because they're ‘not a social group’


Anti-extremism police officers in the Sverdlovsk region say gay people aren’t a social group and therefore aren't protected against homophobic hate speech. That was the response to Anna Plyusnina, a lawyer for the LGBT Resource Center, who alerted the authorities to comments posted by Internet users on local news websites that insult gay people, advocate “conversion therapy,” and threaten gay people with physical violence.

After reviewing the threats, the authorities concluded that they were “not addressed to any group of people on the grounds of ethnic, racial, religious, or social identity,” and therefore do not violate any laws, including laws against extremism.

Anti-extremism officials say Plyusnina can take her case to the district attorney or to the courts, if she disagrees with their decision, but Plyusnina told the website that she doesn't want to perpetuate Russia's growing tendency to lock up Internet users. She says she doesn't want the perpetrators prosecuted, and is only trying to ensure that the hateful comments are deleted.

Russian police aren’t usually so cautious about enforcing the country’s criminalization of hate speech, so much so that a national campaign has emerged to reduce the offense to a misdemeanor. The campaign, however, has not produced results. In recent years, the authorities even extended hate-speech protections to chauvinist patriots (vatniki), judges, and police officers. In September 2018, police in Omsk charged a feminist woman with inciting hatred against “men” because she joked online about “asses and pussies” in a dozen blog posts shared between 2013 and 2016.

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