Presenting its 2017 report on Russia, Human Rights Watch observed:

Since 2012, Russian authorities have unjustifiably prosecuted dozens of people for criminal offenses on the basis of social media posts, online videos, media articles, and interviews…

HRW’s report noted, correctly:

Authorities have automatically equated reposts of articles on social media and elsewhere as endorsements…

Moreover, there has been at least one case of a person convicted of posting a supposedly “extremist” image in a private folder, once again raising the issue of Russian social network administrators (at and cooperating rather keenly with the Russian police and security services.

On the other hand, Kremlinophiles and Putinverstehers would counter by citing stories like this:

A teenager who posted rap lyrics on Instagram to pay tribute to a Liverpool boy who died in a road accident was found guilty of sending an offensive message.

Here’s the text of the piece that got the Croxteth girl in trouble. She argued that she believed she was posting in a friends-only mode, but somehow she got overheard by a not particularly friendly member of the public:

Russell’s trial came about because Dominique Walker, a PC in Merseyside Police’s hate-crime unit, considered Snap Dogg’s language to be offensive ‘to her as a black woman and to the general community’.

I used to think it was a peculiarly Russian trick: find someone who finds an act offensive and get them to complain. Better yet, keep a task force of the easily offendable on the police payroll. I was wrong: it’s a pan-Eurasian sickness, although the motivations and workings of the two systems are different. If the Russian regime is at once oppressive and fragile, it’s understandable why it may strike out randomly against potential crimethinkers and crimespeakers.

In the British case, I’m thinking of Tim Newman’s “vicar’s wife” comparison. (Theresa May is a vicar’s daughter; in contrast, Margaret Thatcher was a non-conformist preacher’s daughter.) Some, perhaps most, of the UK prosecutions I’ve read about seem to fit the ancient pattern of using speech codes to keep the lower classes under control. Since they aren’t very articulate in the middle-class dialect, much of the lowborns’ native idiom is classed as hate speech and prohibited, cutting off the tips of their tongues.

“The street is writhing, tongueless,” Vladimir Mayakovsky wrote on the eve of the 1917 Russian revolutions. The crowd soon expressed itself in violence. The title of the rap number that triggered PC Walker’s PC reflexes, Trippin’, might also be hinting at possible outcomes. “Trip” is cognate with “trap.” Sooner or later, I’d like to believe, these draconian speech laws will trip up their enforcers. “Hate” speech often serves as a safety valve; abandoning safety valves and trip switches is insanity.

Against this backdrop of Eurasian censorship, Hillary Clinton’s complaints about Donald Trump’s supposed assault on the free press are downright ridiculous.

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