Russian dissenter arrested for link to Facebook

Human rights advocate Alexey Sokolov was arrested for five days in Yekaterinburg for linking to Facebook, which is considered a terrorist organization in Russia.

Sokolov was charged with displaying symbols of extremist organizations. The city court in Yekaterinburg in central Russia ordered that he be detained for linking to a “banned” social network.

The judge found that he violated Russian laws for including a hyperlink styled as a button with the Facebook logo on the website of his NGO, the Human Rights Defenders of the Urals, Sokolov’s lawyer told the local news website Vechernye Vedomosti.

The link led to the organization’s page on Facebook, and the judge determined that Sokolov was the website’s administrator, therefore bearing responsibility for the offense.

According to Vechernye Vedmosti, Sokolov specializes in defending the rights of prisoners. He has won multiple lawsuits against the Federal Penitentiary Service in the Sverdlovsk region, where Yekaterinburg is located.

In 2015, Sokolov’s prisoner rights group was labeled a “foreign agent” by the Ministry of Justice of the Russian Federation, a tool used by the government to suppress civil rights organizations and the free press.

Four years later, he managed to get the organization removed from the register, but it had to cease its activities due to numerous fines accumulated during the period.

Alexey Sokolov

Meta, the parent company of Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp, was designated an extremist organization by a court in Moscow in March last year, immediately after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The company irked Russian authorities for making a temporary exception to its rules and allowing those affected by war to “express violent sentiments towards invading armed forces.”

Facebook and Instagram were blocked in Russia for “Russophobia,” but not WhatsApp. In October of the same year, Russian authorities confirmed the designation and added Meta to a register of terrorist and extremist organizations.

The prosecutor’s office issued a warning, saying that it would consider actions leading users to banned platforms and posting material there as “a form of participation in the activities of an extremist organization.”

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