A criminal case had been launched against staff at the US company over calls for violence against Russians, even killings The logo of US multinational tech conglomerate Meta displayed on a booth ahead of the World Economic Forum (WEF) annual meeting in Davos. © AFP / Fabrice Coffrini

Andy Stone, the spokesman for the Meta tech conglomerate, which owns Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp, has been placed on a wanted list in Russia, according to the database of the country’s Interior Ministry.

Izvestia, Ria-Novosti and other Russian media outlets reported on Sunday that Stone’s name can now be found on the database. His file reads that the US citizen is sought over a criminal case, but reveals no further details.

Meta was branded an extremist organization in Russia shortly after the outbreak of the conflict in Ukraine in February 2022. Its apps, Facebook and Instagram, were blocked in the country for allowing hate speech against Russian nationals and for distributing what had been deemed false content about Moscow’s military. WhatsApp avoided restrictions due to being classed as solely a communication tool.

In March 2022, Reuters reported after reviewing Meta’s internal emails that the company had decided to temporarily relax its rules in some countries to allow Facebook and Instagram users to call for violence against Russians and Russian soldiers in the context of the country’s military operation in Ukraine.

Ukrainians using Instagram to whip up ethnic tensions in Russia – MP Ukrainians using Instagram to whip up ethnic tensions in Russia – MP

It was also planned that calls for the deaths of Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Belarusian counterpart Alexander Lukashenko were to be legitimized, according to the agency.

On what was then Twitter (now X), Stone responded to the report, calling it “sensational” and explaining Meta’s stance on the issue.

“As a result of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, we have temporarily made allowances for forms of political expression that would normally violate our rules like violent speech, such as ‘Death to the Russian invaders,’” the spokesman wrote. “We still won’t allow credible calls for violence against Russian civilians,” he added.

The IT giant had also tried to tone the whole thing down, with Meta’s President of Global Affairs Nick Clegg saying that the measure was solely aimed at giving Ukrainians a chance to vent their anger at Russia’s actions. The policy by the US company was even criticized by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who said that such language is “unacceptable” in any context.

The next day after the report by Reuters, Russia’s Investigative Committee announced that it had launched a criminal case “in connection with illegal calls for murder and violence against Russian citizens by the employees of Meta.” The agency said that it was going to give a legal assessment of the actions by Stone and other staff of the US tech giant.

According to the investigators, their conduct could’ve been in violation of Articles 280 and 205.1 of the Russian Criminal Code, covering public calls for extremist activities and assisting in terrorist activities. (RT)