Social networks begin removing content for inciting illegal protests in Russia
In response to orders from the Russian Attorney General’s Office and the state censorship agency, Roskomnadzor, social networks have started removing content that contains “calls for children to participate in illegal mass events.” This comes ahead of planned opposition protests in cities across Russia on Saturday, January 23, in support of jailed opposition figure Alexey Navalny.
On the morning of Friday, January 22, Roskomnadzor confirmed that TikTok had deleted 38 percent of the content deemed illegal, VKontakte and YouTube had removed 50 percent, and Instagram — 17 percent.
In its statement, the censorship agency noted that TikTok is seeing the most activity regarding the protests scheduled for January 23. However, Roskomnadzor claimed that the “new calls” for protests that are popping up are being distributed “artificially.”
Later in the day on Friday, MBX Media reported that the Russian social network VKontakte had blocked two-thirds of the pages (59 out of 83 in total) for the January 23 rallies, including the ones for the protests planned in Moscow and St. Petersburg. While these webpages have been blocked in Russia, they can still be accessed from other countries.
Pages for the “Freedom for Navalny!” rallies remain accessible on Facebook.
Update. Later in the day on Friday, the Russian Investigative Committee announced the launch of a criminal case over the online distribution of calls to attend the protests in support of Alexey Navalny. The case was opened under the criminal article for involving a minor in commissioning unlawful actions via the Internet (specifically, under article 151.2 of the Russian Criminal Code, section 2, points “a” and “b”). State investigators have yet to identify any suspects in the case.
Alexey Navalny’s supporters are planning to hold protests opposing his detention in several dozen cities across Russia on Saturday, January 23. Navalny was remanded in custody at Moscow’s Matrosskaya Tishina Prison following his return to Russia from Germany, where he spent nearly five months recovering from chemical nerve agent poisoning.
A number of public figures well-known in Russia have spoken out in support of Navalny, while on social media young people have been particularly active in distributing calls to attend protests opposing his detention.
Russian police officials and state prosecutors are warning against taking part in unauthorized protests. Roskomnadzor has threatened social networks with up to 4 million rubles (more than $50,000) in fines for failing to remove content deemed illegal.