Russia convicts Meta spokesperson to 6 years in prison over justifying terrorism

Andy Stone was barred from administering websites for four more year

Russia convicts Meta spokesperson Representative Image

A court in Russia on Monday convicted the spokesperson of US technology company Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram, to six years in prison over justifying terrorism. The swift verdict was pronounced in the accused's absence. 

The Meta communications director Andy Stone was charged for his remarks in 2022 following Moscow's invasion of Ukraine in February. 

Stone, who is based in the United States, 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.

Credible calls for violence against Russian civilians would remain banned, added Stone. 

A criminal case was opened against 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 organisation and blocked Facebook and Instagram in Russia. Both platforms were popular in Russia before the invasion. However, they are now only accessible via VPN.

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, reported Mediazona, an independent Russian website. 

The trial, in which Stone was represented by a government-appointed lawyer, began on Friday and concluded on Monday after only two hearings. Stone was sentenced to six years in a penal colony and barred from administering websites for four more years.

In April 2022, Russia also formally barred Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg from entering the country.

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