A popular 18-year-old fashion and beauty influencer has been threatened with jail for using Instagram in Russia.
Veronika Loginova said that two state prosecutors arrived at her home this week, accusing her of “extremist activity” and deploring her for “standing out too much” despite her account not posting any political content.
In March, a Moscow court banned social media platforms Instagram and Facebook in a bid to further crackdown on freedom of expression and the ability for Russian citizens to have access to news and opinions that don’t fit Kremlin-pushed narratives. Yet many Russians, including Loginova, have managed to circumnavigate the ban via the use of Virtual Private Networks (VPN) that hide a user’s IP address.
Addressing her 584,000 followers on Instagram, Loginova, who mainly posts about clothes and makeup, said: “This can now happen to anyone in Russia. Any day prosecutors can come to your house. I never touched politics and now I face six years in jail for running an Instagram account.”
Loginova has vowed not to allow threats of prosecution deter her, saying: “I am going to get to the bottom of it and to cover it here. Thankfully, I have the support from people who understand that this is not normal.”
“This is totally f****d up, and I want as many people as possible to know about this story,” she added. “And while we don’t speak about such things, I will still speak.”
In March, Russian State prosecutors cited their requests to label Meta (Instagram and Facebook’s parent company) an “extremist organization” due to a temporary change to Meta’s hate speech policy allowing users to publish posts inciting violence against Russian troops invading Ukraine.
In response, Meta’s president of global affairs, British politician Nick Clegg, posted a statement on Twitter on March 10. “To be clear, we are only going to apply this policy to Ukraine itself,” he wrote. “We have no quarrel with the Russian people. There is no change at all in our policies on hate speech as far as the Russian people are concerned.”
However, Mr Clegg said that Ukrainians should be supported in “expressing their resistance and fury at the invading military forces,” and that Meta’s policies “focused on protecting people’s rights to speech as an expression of self defense in reaction to a military invasion of their country.”
Despite the restrictions imposed on Instagram and Facebook by Russia, Russian citizens continue to use both platforms to voice their opposition to the ongoing brutal invasion of Ukraine.
On Tuesday, Sept. 20, famous Russian pop singer Alla Pugacheva used her Instagram account to voice her objections to Putin’s actions after her husband was designated a foreign agent by Russia’s justice ministry.
In her widely shared post, Pugacheva said her husband desired an end to the death of Russian troops, whom she said were “dying for illusory aims that make our country a pariah.”
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