Andy Stone has been charged with ‘justifying terrorism’ in a post defending the company’s decision to relax rules on hate speech © Kenzo TRIBOUILLARD/AFP

Meta spokesman Andy Stone has been sentenced by a Russian court to six years in a medium-security prison for ‘justifying terrorism’, RIA Novosti reported on Monday, citing court documents.

He had been charged under Article 205 of the Russian Criminal Code in relation to “public calls for terrorism, its justification or propaganda, committed using the media, including the internet.” Stone’s was tried in absentia.

Meta, which owns Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp, was branded an extremist organization in Russia shortly after the outbreak of the Ukraine conflict in February 2022. Its social media platforms were blocked in the country for allowing hate speech against Russian nationals and the military.

A month later, Reuters reported that a review of Meta’s internal emails had shown that the company had deliberately eased hate-speech rules in some countries to allow users vent anger against Russia in the context of the country’s military operation.

In a post on X (formerly Twitter) shortly after the publication, Stone commented on the report and explained Meta’s position.

“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,” he wrote, adding that this included death threats against Russians.

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The post attracted the attention of the Russian authorities, who launched an investigation. In November, the spokesman was placed on a wanted list in Russia. Last month, Russia’s Federal Financial Monitoring Service (Rosfinmonitoring) added Stone to its list of persons and organizations deemed to be involved in extremist activities or terrorism.

During Monday’s hearing, the prosecutor had initially demanded a maximum seven-year sentence for Stone, to be served at a high-security prison. The defense, however, sought for Stone to be acquitted because he had not intentionally justified terrorism in his post, but merely expressed his view on the new rules for moderating publications on Meta’s platforms. (RT)