Meta comms chief handed six-year Russian prison sentence for 'justifying terrorism'

Memo to Andy Stone: Don't go to Moscow for your holidays

Meta’s communications director Andy Stone has been sentenced in absentia to six years imprisonment in Russia for "justifying terrorism."

Meta was declared an extremist organization by Russia two years ago after the social media website refused to moderate posts calling for the death of Russian soldiers invading Ukraine. And late last year, Stone was added to Russia's most wanted list.

According to Russian government-run news agency TASS, Stone on March 11, 2022, posted to his Twitter/X account "a comment advocating aggressive, hostile and violent actions against Russian servicemen participating in the special military operation."

That’s the illegal invasion of Ukraine, in Putin-speak.

Presuming the grievous comment is among those presently accessible, it's probably Stone's March 11, 2022 repost of Meta global affairs president Nick Clegg's explanation of Meta's policies with regard to the invasion. The other still visible post Stone made to Twitter that day is a repost of a comment from Adam Mosseri, head of Meta's Instagram service, lamenting the blocking of Instagram in Russia.

For ostensibly endorsing hostility toward Russian soldiers and their special military actions, Stone has been found to have committed a crime under the Russian Criminal Code. And he's said to have got off lightly – the Russian prosecutor reportedly asked the military court hearing Stone's case for a seven-year sentence, the maximum under the terrorism endorsement rules.

The US does not have an extradition treaty with Russia. So, given the frosty political relations between the two adversaries, the military court’s decision appears to be unenforceable – unless of course some transactional, Russia-appeasing administration comes to power in the US.

If that happens, all bets are off. We might see Stone traded for imprisoned Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich or some equally far-fetched scenario. Check in around November for news on that front.

In any event, Stone may want to check his travel itineraries and make sure he doesn't venture too close to Russia-aligned countries.

Belarusian journalist Roman Protasevich, who reported on protests against the nation's president Alexander Lukashenko, was arrested in 2021 when his flight from Greece to Lithuania was diverted to Belarus's capital city Minsk under the pretext of a bomb threat. In 2023, he was sentenced to eight years in prison – then pardoned.

According to the United Nations Human Rights Office, another Russian law forbids discrediting the Russian Armed Forces – and it has been used to arrest at least 7,000 people since the illegal invasion of Ukraine. Related rules have been used to detain more than 20,000 war protesters.

Tensions arising from Russia's violent visitation to Ukraine also led Russian authorities to ban Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg from entering the country.

The billionaire finds himself limited to visiting his reported ten houses or other countries that appreciate visits from titans of virtual industry who just want "to give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together."

Meta, previously accused by Amnesty International of algorithmically promoting ethnic violence – a claim Facebook partially admits – did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Stone's defense lawyer, Valentina Filippenkova, told TASS that she would appeal the conviction – for all the good that'll do. ®

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