Two years for the repost: as the authorities fight extremism in the Runet


6 may Zavolzhsky district court of Tver has sentenced a mechanical engineer Andrew Bubeev to two years and three months in a penal colony for two repost on his page in social network “Vkontakte”. Bubeev was propublica material publicist Boris Stomakhin with the slogan of the territorial jurisdiction of the Crimea and the image of the toothpaste tube with the signature on the same topic.

As the lawyer said, the lawyer of the human rights group “Agora” Svetlana Sidorkina, Bubeev was accused of public appeals to extremist activity (part 2 of article 280 of the Criminal code) and public calls for the implementation of activities aimed at violating the territorial integrity of Ukraine (part 2 article 280.1).

At the time of sentencing Bubeev were already in prison: in the summer of 2015, he was sentenced to ten months in a penal colony for reposts of similar materials and symbols (under article 282 of the criminal code, for inciting hatred or enmity) and to two months for illegal possession of ammunition (article 222 of the criminal code). Year ago case about the extremism of the Ministry of interior investigated, now the FSB.

Such cases are increasing, said a founder of the nonprofit project “Roskomsvoboda” Artem Kozlyuk.

How often in Russia, blamed for “Internet extremism”?

The definition of extremism was cemented in 2002, the law “On countering extremist activities”. Among the types of such activities — “violent change of the constitutional system and violation of integrity of the Russian Federation”, “public justification of terrorism and other terrorist activity, excitation social, racial, national or religious hatred”, etc.

But only in 2012-2015 recorded “a clear trend of tougher prosecution for words”, this is a realistic timetable for statements made online were rather exceptions, the report said the “Agora”. According to the estimates of lawyers “Agora”, the number of cases of involvement of users to criminal liability dramatically — almost threefold — increased in 2012 to 103 in 2013 was 226 already in 2014-m — 132, in 2015-m — 203.

From official statistics of the interior Ministry that in 2015, there were 1308 of extremist crimes — on 27,7% more than in 2014. it was Revealed 1125 of such crimes. The figures for the first three months of 2016 — 390 and 230. In the statistics of the Ministry of interior did not specify how many of these crimes were committed over the Internet.

According to the analytical center “Sova”, the number of convictions in 2015 for statements of extremist nature of a different sort, amounted to no less than 233, approximately 90% are on the Internet.

More than half of the sentences for extremism — it is business-related publications, both online and specifically in social networks, agrees Director of the Center for economic and political reforms (CEPR) Nikolay Mironov.

According CEPR, mainly increasing the number of prisoners under part 1 of article 282 — “incitement of hatred or enmity, and humiliation of human dignity (…using the media or information and telecommunications networks, including network “Internet”)”. The report of the center for comparative figures for 2011, when it was issued 82 indictments in this article, and for 2015, when there were 369. How many sentences was connected to the Internet, CEPR does not specify.

Half of the sentences in the Internet is sentences for the materials in “Vkontakte”, according to Director of “Owl” Alexander Verhovsky. In his opinion, this social network is convenient because it has Russian administration and to obtain the information of the person to law enforcement authorities is easier than in the case of treatment to Facebook or Twitter.

The representative of “Vkontakte” reported that the company does not disclose statistics on the appeals of law enforcement.

For some actions in the Internet can get time?

The punishment for extremism is found in many articles of the criminal code, says Verkhovsky. In particular, this article 280 (public calls for extremist activities), 281 (sabotage), 282 (incitement of hatred or enmity, and humiliation of human dignity) and 354 (public appeals to implementation of aggressive war). Also to the “extremist” attitude of the article 205.2 (public calls for terrorist activity or public justification of terrorism), 354.1 (rehabilitation of Nazism) and part 1 of article 148 (insult of feelings of believers).

Many “extremist” articles blurred the disposition of (description of the crimes) and it is easy for them to bring separate actions, said the lawyer Alexei Mikhalchik. The decision on guilt of the person for such crimes are accepted by the court on the basis of conclusions of experts, including linguists who establish signs of extremism in words or publications of the accused, says michalczyk.

The bulk of convictions is under article 280, and 282 205.2, said Verkhovsky. According to him, repost, for which he was convicted Bubeev, is one of the most common reasons for criminal prosecution.

CEPR in his report identifies several major groups of sentenced for “extremist” articles. The first is the nationalists and the people who are not members of nationalist groups, but using slogans that the court recognized extremist. The second group of prisoners — religious extremists, mainly Islamists. The third group consists of Pro-Ukrainian activists, who condemned the harsh statements in support of Ukraine, criticism of actions of the Russian authorities in the Crimea and the Donbass.

Extremism so broadly interpreted by prosecutors, investigators and the courts the notion that they can recognize almost everything that “we write or comment in the Internet,” said Kozluk.

By “extremist” articles of the criminal code provides punishment ranging from monetary fines (100 thousand rubles and more) to real terms of imprisonment up to seven years. The use of Runet heavier punishment: for example, the article on “public calls to extremist activity” the publication appeals in the media and the Internet raises the maximum threshold of punishment from four to five years.

High-profile cases against Internet users in 2015-2016

April 26, 2016 Internet entrepreneur Anton Nossik was charged with “inciting hatred or hostility, and humiliation of human dignity through the media” (article 282.1 of the criminal code). The reason for the proceedings was the blog entry of the Spout in the “Live journal” of October 1, 2015. In this post, author has expressed support for Russian military operations in Syria and called for the massacre of Syrians.

30 Dec 2015 Kirovskiy district court of Tomsk sentenced to five years in a penal colony, a political activist Vadim Tyumentseva for videos that he published on YouTube and in “Vkontakte”. The rollers Tyumentsev, according to the court, led the extremist activities through calls for participation in unsanctioned protests and whipping up the hatred of the inhabitants of the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Luhansk people’s republics. Tyumentseva case is interesting because the court has tightened the requirements of the public prosecution: the Prosecutor at the trial demanded the activist only four years of a colony-settlements.

21 Dec 2015 October district court of Krasnodar has sentenced political activist Darya Polyudova to two years in prison for participating in unauthorized protests, publish and repost the records in “Vkontakte”. In the social network Pokludova he made criticizing President Vladimir Putin and a positive assessment of the possible desires of individual citizens “to join Ukraine”, which the court considered an appeal to violent change of the constitutional order (in 2014, the criminal code was amended to provide for such a call, the penalty of deprivation of liberty for up to five years).

9 December 2015 charged under the same article that the Spout (282.1 of the criminal code) were brought against the leader of the banned Russian movement “Russian” Dmitry Demushkina. The criminal prosecution of the leader of the nationalists is because they publish in social networks photos of the banner with the action “Russian March” 2014 with the slogan extremist. In late summer of 2015 Nagatinsky district court also decided to remove the page Demushkin in “Vkontakte” over the image with a demonstration of the radical nationalist symbolism.

1 Dec 2015 the Surgut city court sentenced to a year in a penal colony Internet user Oleg Novozhenin. He posted on his page in “Vkontakte” audio and video recordings, in which, in the opinion of the court, he promoted the ideas of prohibited in Russia organizations “Right sector” and Misantropic Division, as well as the Ukrainian volunteer battalion “Azov”. Severe punishment Novozhenin suffered, despite a full confession of his guilt.

How to identify extremists in Runet?

With extremism on the net fighting all law enforcement agencies: the interior Ministry, FSB, the Investigative Committee. The staff of these agencies are looking for in social networks provoking materials, explained the lawyer Sarkis Darbinyan. And to do this may not necessarily specialized “fighters with extremism” — are often the same employees of the interior Ministry collecting material under sentences for extremist articles “for “cane” reporting”, claimed in his report CEPR.

To send a complaint, suspecting the fact of dissemination of extremist content on the web, anyone — natural or legal person, said Darbinyan. On the websites of the interior Ministry and Prosecutor General’s office is, for example, the special online form through which Roskomnadzor, advised to submit to such treatment.

The purification Network of extremist content also targets the organs of the Prosecutor’s office and Roskomnadzor. The Prosecutor may notify the provider of the requirement to block access to the site or to go to court with a demand to recognize a certain material on the Internet is illegal. Roskomnadzor, finding publication in the Federal list of extremist materials, he can make it in a special register, which are required to constantly monitor all providers.

The attorney General and his deputies in 2014-m received the right to address in Roskomnadzor with the requirement of extrajudicial blocking of sites, “spreading appeals to mass riots, extremist activities or participation in unauthorized mass events”. The head of Roskomnadzor Alexander Zharov in April announced that for 2015 the General Prosecutor’s office has received 144 cases. On that basis, it was blocked 913 pages and entire sites. In total, according to statistics of Roskomnadzor, as of April 2016 in Russia will be blocked 1,3 thousand of websites with extremist content.

Can be tightened the fight against extremism in a Network?

The Chairman of the Investigative Committee, Alexander Bastrykin, in his article in magazine “Kommersant Vlast”, published in early April of 2016, suggested the government to think about extending the bounds of the redaction” of the Runet.

Among his initiatives is the expansion of article 280 of the criminal code norm about the denial of the outcome of the referendum on joining of Crimea to Russia and a sign, “suggesting appeals to extremist activities if they involve the falsification of information about historical facts and events”.

Another proposal Bastrykin — “non-judicial (administrative) procedure for inclusion in the Federal list of extremist materials, as well as blocking domain names of websites that spread extremist and nationalist and radical information”.

A source close to the presidential administration, says that most of the proposals of the head of the UK is unlikely to be accepted. But at the end of April on the Forum of safe Internet Senator Elena Mizulina announced a new proposal to tighten control over the users: the Federation Council is preparing a bill enabling the use of the Internet in a number of circumstances aggravating the offence.