Russia Sentences Meta Platforms Spokesperson Andy Stone to 6 Years in Prison for Publicly Defending 'Terrorism'

By Madz Dizon

Apr 22, 2024 10:02 AM EDT

Russia Sentences Meta Platforms Spokesperson Andy Stone to 6 Years in Prison for Publicly Defending 'Terrorism'
In a ruling delivered in absentia, a military court in Russia has sentenced Andy Stone, a spokesperson for Meta Platforms, to six years in prison.
(Photo : ALEXANDER NEMENOV/AFP via Getty Images)

A military court in Moscow sentenced Meta Platforms spokesperson Andy Stone to six years in prison for "publicly defending terrorism" on Monday, according to RIA news agency.

Meta has been branded an extremist organization in Russia, and its Facebook and Instagram social media platforms have been blocked since Russia invaded Ukraine in 2022.

Meta Platforms Spokesperson Andy Stone Accused of 'Terrorist' Conduct in Russia

Interfax cited the defendant's lawyer, Valentina Filippenkova, stating the sentence would be appealed.

"I asked for an acquittal," she was quoted as saying, according to Reuters.

According to Radio Free Europe, the Russian military court launched a criminal investigation on Meta on March 11, 2022, less than a month after Russia invaded Ukraine in February of that year. Stone declared the loosening of speech restrictions on March 10, 2022, making him a target for Russian authorities. 

The investigation was in response to Meta's policy change, which allowed for more violent statements about Russia's invasion on Facebook and Instagram, two platforms that were later banned in Russia. 

According to state authorities, Stone made online comments defending "aggressive, hostile, and violent actions" against Russian soldiers engaging in what Moscow refers to as its "special military operation" in Ukraine.

Stone was initially accused with calling for terrorist conduct, making public calls for extremist activity, and publicly justifying terrorism, but the first two allegations were dismissed in the final indictment.

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Russia's Crack Down on Social Media Platforms

The trial, in which Stone was defended by a government-appointed counsel, began on Friday and ended on Monday after just two days.

Mark Zuckerberg, the CEO of Meta, has also been restricted from entering Russia since April 2022, following Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

The authorities also declared Meta an extremist organization and barred Facebook and Instagram in Russia. Both networks - as well as X, formerly known as Twitter, which has also been banned - were popular among Russians before to the invasion and the ensuing crackdown on independent media and other kinds of critical communication. However, they are now only accessible through a VPN. 

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