Who is Meta’s Andy Stone? Jailed for 6 years in absentia by Russia for ‘terrorism’

A military court in Russia handed down a six-year prison sentence to Andy Stone, a spokesperson for Meta, as reported by the English-language Moscow Times.

Russian Court has sentenced Meta’s Communication Director, Andy Stone for 6 years in jail in absentia

Who is Andy Stone?

Andy Stone is in Meta’s Communication Director and currently resides in Washington DC. Previously he has worked with US Senate, Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and also US Congress.

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Stone has been charged with “promotion,” “public calls for” and “justification” of terrorism after his March 2022 announcement that the Facebook and Instagram parent company would temporarily lift its ban on violent speech following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2022.

Why is Meta’s executive sentenced in Russia?

Legal action against Stone was prompted by Meta’s decision to allegedly relax its policies regarding violent speech in the aftermath of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2022.

In a tweet Stone made the policy change announcement, drawing attention from Russian authorities, “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.’ We still won’t allow credible calls for violence against Russian civilians.”

The investigation into Meta by the Russian military court commenced a day after, on March 11, 2022, according to Radio Free Europe, a U.S.-government-run news outlet.

What was Meta’s policy change that irked Russia?

Meta’s policy change allowed for a temporary allowance of certain forms of political expression. Protestors could express their anger with violent speech such as “death to the Russian invaders,” to address the heightened tensions resulting from the invasion.

This change also permitted users to call for death of Russian President Vladimir Putin and Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, as reported by Reuters in 2022.

Stone later clarified that while the company was permitting more violent speech to address the frustration in Ukraine due to the violent invasion, any calls for violence against Russian civilians remained strictly prohibited.

The allowance for calls for violence against Russian soldiers was limited to residents of a dozen countries, excluding individuals in the U.S., according to Reuters: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Estonia, Georgia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Russia, Slovakia, and Ukraine.

Will Andy Stone be jailed in Russia?

Andy Stone is unlikely to face legal repercussions in Russia as long as he refrains from visiting Moscow anytime soon. Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s founder and Meta’s CEO, has been prohibited from entering Russia since April 2022.

The control of information on social media has become increasingly crucial to governments, particularly during times of conflict, from Gaza to Ukraine. Although the U.S. has historically advocated for an “open internet” free from censorship, this stance has shifted with the rise in popularity of TikTok.

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