Meta spokesperson included in Russia’s wanted list

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WASHINGTON: A spokesperson for US tech conglomerate Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram, has been added to Russia’s wanted list, according to an online database maintained by the country’s interior ministry, Voice of America has reported.

The spokesperson, Andy Stone was reported on the list by Russian state agency Tass and independent news outlet Mediazona on Saturday. In October, Russian authorities classified Meta as a “terrorist and extremist” organization, opening the way for possible criminal proceedings against Russian residents using its platforms.

Meta listed as a “terrorist and extremist” organization could lead to criminal investigations and fines for users. The interior ministry’s database does not give details of the case against Stone, stating only that he is wanted on criminal charges. Mediazona, the independent news website that covers Russia’s opposition and prison system, claims that Stone has been on the wanted list since February 2022, but authorities made no related statements at the time and no news media reported on the matter until this week, reported Voice of America.

In March this year, Russia’s federal Investigative Committee opened a criminal probe into Meta. It was alleged that the company’s actions following Moscow’s all-out invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 amounted to inciting violence against Russians.

Stone announced temporary changes to Meta’s hate speech policy following Russia’s troop invasion into Ukraine. The changes allowed for “forms of political expression that would normally violate (its) rules, like violent speech such as ‘death to the Russian invaders.'” In the same statement, Stone added that “credible calls for violence against Russian civilians” will remain banned. Mediazona claimed Sunday that an unspecified Russian court earlier this month issued an arrest warrant for Stone on charges of “facilitating terrorism.”

Western social media platforms, including Facebook, Instagram and X, formerly Twitter, were popular amongst young Russians before Moscow’s full-scale war on Ukraine. The popular apps have since been blocked in the country as part of a broad crackdown on independent media and other forms of critical speech.

These apps can still be accessed using a Virtual Private Network (VPN), which can be easily downloaded on phones and laptops.
In April 2022, Russia also formally barred Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg from entering the country, Voice of America reported. (ANI)

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