Russian Court Fines Meta, TikTok for LGBTQ+ Content

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Thursday April 28, 2022
Originally published on April 27, 2022

Russian president Vladimir Putin
Russian president Vladimir Putin  (Source:Mikhail Metzel, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)

Russia's draconian anti-gay "propaganda" law from 2013 isn't just an all-purpose tool for oppression; it's also handy for raising a few rubles and, in a time of widespread condemnation of Russian aggression in Ukraine, for clamping down on social media in general and pushing back at critics. Case in point: A Russian court's fining of Meta and TikTok for LGBTQ+ content.

"The Magistrate Court of the Taganka district ruled on April 26 that Meta must pay 4 million rubles ($52,800) for failing to take down from its Facebook and Instagram networks materials 'propagating the LGBT community,' and 'insulting Russia's national flag and coat of arms,' " Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reported.

"In a separate hearing, the court in the Russian capital ruled that TikTok must pay 2 million rubles ($26,400) as a fine for failing to remove content that the court claimed was 'propagating homosexual relations,' " the news site added.

"The court's decisions were made at the request of media regulator Roskomnadzor, which has tightened its crackdown on media and free speech across the country since Russia launched its war in Ukraine on February 24."

The charge of "propagating" LGBTQ+ content is rooted in a "2013 Russian law, decried by Western countries as state-enforced bigotry, [that] bans the 'promotion of non-traditional sexual relations to minors,' " Reuters detailed.

"Attacks on the LGBT community are relatively frequent in Russia, where conservative and religious circles take a dim view of the community," Today noted, adding that the 2013 law has been "used to ban pride marches and the display of rainbow flags," but the law is also handy for the campaign the country's authoritarian government has mounted against social media that can allow the dissemination of news other than that which has been approved by the state.

Last month, Russia banned Meta, smearing the company — which is the owner of both Facebook and Instagram — as "extremist," NPR reported at the time, even as it "carv[ed] out an exception for the company's WhatsApp messaging service."

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.