Russia puts the spokesman for Facebook owner Meta on a wanted list

Russia has added the spokesman of U.S. technology company Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram, to a wanted list, according to an online database maintained by the country’s interior ministry.

Russian state agency Tass and independent news outlet Mediazona first reported that Meta communications director Andy Stone was included on the list Sunday, weeks after Russian authorities in October classified Meta as a “terrorist and extremist” organization, opening the way for possible criminal proceedings against Russian residents using its platforms.

The interior ministry’s database doesn’t give details of the case against Stone, stating only that he is wanted on criminal charges. Meta didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

According to Mediazona, an independent news website that covers Russia’s opposition and prison system, Stone was put on the wanted list in February 2022, but authorities made no related statements at the time and no news media reported on the matter until this week.

In March this year, Russia’s federal Investigative Committee opened a criminal investigation into Meta. It alleged that the company’s actions following Moscow’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24, 2022 amounted to inciting violence against Russians.

After Russian troops moved into Ukraine, Stone 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.’”

In the same statement, Stone added that “credible calls for violence against Russian civilians” would remain banned.

Mediazona on Sunday claimed that an unspecified Russian court issued an arrest warrant earlier this month for Stone on charges of “facilitating terrorism.” The report didn’t specify the source of that information, which couldn’t be independently verified.

Western social media platforms including Facebook, Instagram and X — formerly known as Twitter — were popular with young Russians before the 2022 invasion of Ukraine, but have since been blocked in the country as part of a broad crackdown on independent media and other forms of critical speech. They are now only accessible via VPN.

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

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Copyright 2023 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. AP

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