Russia Convicts Meta Spokesperson of Justifying Terrorism

Andy Stone, tried in absentia, receives 6 years
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Apr 22, 2024 5:25 PM CDT
Russia Sentences Meta Spokesperson to 6 Years
Social media applications are displayed on an iPhone in 2019 in New York.   (AP Photo/Jenny Kane, File)

A court in Russia on Monday convicted the spokesperson of US technology company Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram, of justifying terrorism and sentenced him to six years in prison in a swift trial in absentia, Russia's independent news site Mediazona reported. According to the outlet, the charges against Meta communications director Andy Stone stem from his remarks in 2022 following Moscow's invasion of Ukraine, per the AP. Stone, who is based in the US, announced temporary changes to Meta's hate speech policy to allow 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" would remain prohibited. The authorities opened a criminal case implicating Stone and other unidentified Meta employees nonetheless, describing the statement as "illegal calls to violence and killings of Russian citizens." The authorities also outlawed Meta as an extremist organization and blocked Facebook and Instagram in Russia. Both platforms—as well as X, formerly known as Twitter, which has also been blocked—were popular with Russians before the invasion and the subsequent crackdown on independent media and other forms of critical speech. They are now only accessible via VPN.

Mediazona reported that Stone was initially charged with calling for terrorist activity, public calls for extremist activity, and publicly justifying terrorism, but the first two charges were dropped in the final version of the indictment. Stone, who was represented by a government-appointed lawyer, was sentenced to six years in a penal colony and barred from administering websites for four more years. Meta on Monday declined to comment on the verdict, per the AP. (More Meta stories.)

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