Since the inception of the Russian-Ukraine war, Russians have been vocal about Vladimir Putin’s disastrous move against Ukraine. Many expat Russians condemn Russia for its ongoing war with Ukraine in February 2022.
To counter the anti-Russia messaging level, President Putin threatens Russian expat social media influencers with 15 years of imprisonment should they not cease their anti-Russian stance on social media. President Putin considers the spread of misinformation needs an immediate check.
In March, Russia restricted Instagram after a policy by Meta that allowed Instagram and Facebook users in Russia, Ukraine and Poland to call for the death of Russian President Vladimir Putin and Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko. And now, as per reports by Bloomberg, the Russian social media influencers living outside the country are under threat for discussing or posting about the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
According to the Russian expats, they are being targeted by Russian government officials and threatened with prosecution under the new fake news law prohibiting any criticism of Russia’s so-called “special military operation.” It is the law that threatens trespassers with 15 years of imprisonment.
The Russian fake news law applies to any Russian expat ranging from journalists to politicians to writers and lifestyle influencers. For example, you have Russian journalist Izabella Evloeva living in Latvia, sentenced to three years in prison for a Telegram post that equaled the “Z” sign to aggression, death, pain and shameless manipulation. These examples are aplenty.
According to Russian media intelligence, these influencers are “foreign agents.” As per Bloomberg, OVD-Info spokesperson Maria Kuznetsova says that “the point is to destroy the audience’s trust as in the mass consciousness as the term’ foreign agent’ is closely associated with Stalinist repressions and to jeopardize their advertising revenue as advertisers contact them less.”
In other news, Russia’s top internet censors lashed out at YouTube for allegedly facilitating “information attacks.” According to Bloomberg, “YouTube reportedly advised expats to remove videos critical of the war following pressure from Russian government officials.” YouTube told Bloomberg it removes content that violates Russian laws after a valid legal request is made. Refusing to do some comes with consequences. The company claims it was fined $255,000 for failing to comply with Russia’s censorship laws in April. That’s a paltry sum for a company with revenues as huge as YouTube’s, but the number can increase if the fines escalate.
Expats in Russia are being singled out as part of a broader crackdown on social media and conventional media in Russia. Despite Russian authorities’ long-standing practice of stifling political dissent, arrests have increased dramatically since the February invasion. According to OVD-Info, roughly 16,300 persons have been arrested in the United States for violating the false news statute.
Foreign internet companies operating in Russia, subjected to increasing government pressure for years, have also been subjected to significantly increased surveillance. One of the most dramatic examples is the closure of Instagram & Facebook owner Meta, which was ordered to suspend operations in the nation and designated an “extremist group” after it was allegedly “censored” by Russian official media.
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