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Russian social network VKontakte shuts down nine Columbine massacre fan groups — watchdog

Russian social network VKontakte has deleted nine "Columbine communities," and posts with similar content were removed in four groups

MOSCOW, January 31. /TASS/. Russian social network VKontakte has deleted nine "Columbine communities," and posts with similar content were removed in four groups, Russia’s Federal Service for Supervision of Communications, Information Technology and Mass Media said in a statement.

It was earlier reported that Russia’s media and communications watchdog supports State Duma Vice Speaker Irina Yarovaya’s legislative initiative on extra-judicial disablement of websites containing information that may compel children and teenagers into illegal activity that pose a danger to minors’ lives.

Dangerous content has to be scrubbed within a three-day period under the law. However, after a website with banned content is removed, mirror pages appear, Yarovaya pointed out.

"Based on the requirements of the appropriate authorities, the VKontakte social network administration removed nine so-called ‘Columbine communities.’ Posts with similar content were deleted in four more communities. According to watchdog’s decisions, the specified groups contained illegal information capable of persuading minors into asocial behavior that could prompt suicide-related actions," the report says.

Efforts to ferret out and block harmful and prohibited information continue in cooperation with appropriate authorities and social media administrators, according to the report.

"Columbine communities" are groups devoted to the mass shooting in Columbine High School in the American state of Colorado. In April 1999, two teenagers assaulted school students and personnel with small arms and homemade explosive devices. The attackers injured 37 people, 13 of whom later died. Following the assault, they shot themselves.

On January 19, a teenager wielding an axe attacked students and a teacher in a school in the community of Sosnovy Bor in an Ulan-Ude suburb in the Buryatia Region. The perpetrator then set fire to the building. Russian Presidential Plenipotentiary Representative in the Siberian Federal District Sergey Menyailo earlier told TASS that, according to preliminary information, the ninth-grader who committed the attack against the school students in the Sosnovy Bor community in Buryatia was a member of a closed group on social media and could be linked to those who attacked school students in other regions. Before that, on January 15, two teenagers stabbed nine school students and a teacher. On January 17, a school student in the village of Smolnoye, in the Chelyabinsk Region, stabbed a fellow classmate in a fight. Chelyabinsk Region Education Minister Alexander Kuznetsov told TASS that the quarrel that broke out in the school had nothing to do with the teenage school attack on the teacher and children in the Perm Region.