Meta Spokesman Now On Criminal Wanted List

A spokesman for tech company Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram, has been placed on Russia’s list of most wanted fugitives after its intelligence agency described the company as a “terrorist and extremist” organization. The Russian state agency Tass has not provided details on why Meta’s Andy Stone has made their list but merely confirmed he is wanted on criminal charges.

Mediazona, a media outlet that covers Russian affairs, said authorities there added Mr. Stone’s name to the list in February 2022 but there was no media coverage at that time. In March, however, Russia’s federal Investigative Committee began monitoring Meta for material that it believed could incite violence against Russians as the war with Ukraine got underway.

Immediately after the Kremlin invaded Ukraine, Meta announced that it would relax its rules to allow fervent anti-Russian content, including calling for the death of Moscow’s troops. In announcing the policy, Stone did however state that threats or violent rhetoric aimed at Russian civilians would remain prohibited.

Under the newly announced policy, people from Poland, Ukraine, and Lithuania, were also allowed to call for the death of Russian leaders, but only if these were not credible and did not contain information about the leaders’ whereabouts at a specific time.

In response, Russia’s US embassy tweeted, “We demand that US authorities stop the extremist activities of Meta, and take measures to bring the perpetrators to justice.”

A month later, in March 2022, Meta announced a rethink and said its previous guidance should not be interpreted as “condoning violence against Russians in general.” The company also altered its prior position on calling for the death of leaders, except if they were posted by residents of Ukraine. The change of heart was prompted by Russian threats to ban Instagram and remove 80 million followers from the platform.

Meta accordingly denounced what it called “Russophobia” and confirmed it would not tolerate any support for genocide, ethnic cleansing, harassment or violent anti-Russian rhetoric.