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Social media ‘likes’ never been labeled crimes, assures Russian prosecutor

No criminal cases have ever been opened in Russia over social media ‘likes’

MOSCOW, October 1./TASS/. No criminal cases have ever been opened in Russia over social media ‘likes,’ Spokesman for the Russian General Prosecutor’s Office Alexander Kurennoi told its online video channel on Monday.

"All these cases have been branded ‘likes and reposts cases’," he went on to say. "We must draw the line here - we do have [criminal cases opened] for reposts, because reposts mean information is uploaded, but no criminal cases have been opened for ‘likes’," he said.

Kurennoi said the lion’s share of criminal cases for extremism has been launched over the fact of transmitting information along the Internet. They accounted for 75% of criminal cases opened in 2017 under extremism articles (Article 282 of the Russian Criminal Code - "stirring up of hatred or enmity, and equally violation of human dignity"), and 571 of 762 criminal cases were opened in the first half of this year on charges of extremism on the Internet," he said.

On September 20, a plenary session of the Russian Supreme Court passed a new resolution explaining when criminal cases can be opened if extremist material is posted on the Internet. The resolution stressed that ‘likes’ and reposts of even extremist information cannot be seen as grounds for pressing criminal charges without establishing any motive. To face criminal charges, those posting extremist information must realize what they are doing and have the objective of stirring up hatred or hostility. Besides, potential consequences of reposts must be taken into consideration as well as the identity of the perpetrator.

Kurennoi said that on September 21, Prosecutor General Yuri Chaika signed a decree to tighten the prosecutor’s supervision of extremism-related crimes. He also opined that the amount of criminal cases launched over extremism on the Internet would decline following the ruling of the Supreme Court’s plenary session.