Memes in Russia can get you into (criminal) trouble

For RTÉ Brainstorm, a project featuring popular writing on academic research, I wrote about the prosecution of Russian internet users for irreverent memes and dark humour on social media. Some of the recent cases I discuss have resulted in criminal sentences and jail terms.

Markin and Motuznaya’s cases are not unique in Russia, but they are a symptom of an escalating crackdown on free speech online. Social media content is regularly deleted or blocked on the grounds of religious or ethnic intolerance, and users are regularly sanctioned for sharing or even liking content deemed to contain calls to “extremism” or mass disorder. Russia’s Supreme Court estimates that convictions under the extremism charge have more than tripled between 2012 and 2017, and human rights organisations note a large number of these are for online activity.

Read my critique of the Russian approach to policing social media in its entirety on the RTÉ Brainstorm site.


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