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Anastasia Bubeyeva shows a screenshot on her computer of a picture of a toothpaste tube with the words: “Squeeze Russia out of yourself!” For sharing this picture on a social media site with his 12 friends, her husband was sentenced this month to more than two years in prison.

As the Kremlin claims unequivocal support among Russians for its policies both at home and abroad, a crackdown is underway against ordinary social media users who post things that run against the official narrative. Here the Kremlin’s interests coincide with those of investigators, who are anxious to report high conviction rates for extremism. The Kremlin didn’t immediately comment on the issue.

At least 54 people were sent to prison for hate speech last year, most of them for sharing and posting things online, which is almost five times as many as five years ago, according to the Moscow-based Sova group, which studies human rights, nationalism and xenophobia in Russia. The overall number of convictions for hate speech in Russia increased to 233 last year from 92 in 2010.

A 2002 Russian law defines extremism as activities that aim to undermine the nation’s security or constitutional order, or glorify terrorism or racism, as well as calling for others to do so. The vagueness of the phrasing and the scope of offenses that fall under the extremism clause allow for the prosecution of a wide range of people, from those who set up an extremist cell or display Nazi symbols to anyone who writes something online that could be deemed a danger to the state. In the end, it’s up to the court to decide whether a social media post poses a danger to the nation or not.

In February 2014, when Ukraine was in the middle of a pro-European revolution, President Vladimir Putin signed a bill tightening penalties for non-violent extremist crimes such as hate speech. In July of that year, three months after Russia had annexed the Crimean Peninsula, he signed a bill making calls “to destroy” Russia’s territorial integrity a criminal offense punishable by up to five years in prison. The new amendment makes the denial of Russia’s claims on Crimea an even greater offense if the statement is made in the press or online, even on a private social media account.

Many of the shares that led to the recent rash of convictions were of things critical of Russia’s involvement in Ukraine.

This was true of the articles and images shared by Bubeyeva’s husband, a 40-year-old electrician from Tver, a sleepy provincial capital halfway between Moscow and St. Petersburg.

“Andrei Bubeyev thinks that he was charged as an example so that other ordinary citizens would be discouraged from expressing their opinion,” said his lawyer, Svetlana Sidorkina.

Bubeyev spent a lot of time online, sharing links to various articles on his VKontakte page and engaging in political debates on local news websites, his wife says.

In spring 2015, he left town to work on a rural construction site. After investigators couldn’t get through to him on the phone, they put him on a wanted list as an extremism suspect. When Bubeyev stopped by to visit his wife and young son at their country cottage, a SWAT team stormed in and arrested him.

His wife now lives alone with their 4-year-old son in a sparsely furnished apartment on the ground floor of a drab Soviet-era apartment block. After her husband was arrested, Anastasia Bubeyeva, 23, dropped out of medical school because she couldn’t find affordable day care for her child, who still wears an eye patch for an injury he suffered when he bumped his head during the raid.

Several months after his arrest, Bubeyev pleaded guilty to inciting hatred toward Russians and was sentenced to a year in prison. His offense was sharing articles, photos and videos from Ukrainian nationalist groups, including those of the volunteer Azov battalion fighting Russia-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine. Among them was an article about the graves of Russian soldiers killed in Ukraine and a video describing Russia as a “fascist aggressor” and showing Russian tanks purportedly crossing into Ukraine.

Less than two weeks after the verdict, Bubeyev was charged again. This time, he was accused of calling for “acts of extremism” and “actions undermining Russia’s territorial integrity.” He had shared the picture of a toothpaste tube and also an article under the headline “Crimea is Ukraine” by a controversial blogger, who is in jail now, calling for military aggression against Russia.

“He was interested in politics, read the news, shared things, but he did it for himself. It was like collecting newspaper clippings,” his wife said. “His page wasn’t popular — he only had 12 friends. He couldn’t have aimed to coerce anyone into anything.”

The new charges were soon followed by a damning report on local television station Tverskoi Prospekt. The program showed an anonymous blogger complaining about social media users who voiced their support for Ukrainian troops and were “ready to back a coup in Russia and take up arms and kill people as the Nazis did.” The television report claimed that the blogger’s complaint had prompted the prosecution of the electrician.

On May 6, Bubeyev was convicted and sentenced to two years and three months in prison.

Also this month, a court in the Caspian Sea city of Astrakhan sentenced a man to two years in prison for his social media posts urging Ukrainians to fight “Putin’s occupying forces.”

In December, a court in Siberia sentenced a man to five years in prison for “inciting hatred” toward residents of eastern Ukraine in his video posts. In October, a court in southern Russia sent a political activist to prison for two years for an unsanctioned picket and posts on social media criticizing Putin and calling for southern Russia to join Ukraine.

The articles, photos and videos that landed Bubeyev in prison were posted on his page on VKontakte, Russia’s most popular social media network with 270 million accounts.

VKontakte founder Pavel Durov sold the site and fled Russia in 2014, claiming that he had come under pressure from the security services for VKontakte to disclose personal data of the users of a group linked to a protest movement in Ukraine. The company is now controlled by the media holding of Kremlin-friendly billionaire Alisher Usmanov.

Alexander Verkhovsky, director of the Sova group, says roughly half of the convictions of hate speech online are about posts on VKontakte, which he said might be because its administration might be easier for the Russian police to deal with than that of foreign-owned social media.

Bubeyev’s defense claimed that the privacy settlings on his account made the articles he shared available only to him and his 12 friends. Sidorkina, his lawyer, said she has no explanation for how the security services found his posts unless they received the credentials to his account from VKontakte.

VKontakte declined to comment when contacted by The Associated Press.

Russia faced a surge of racially motivated attacks against Central Asian migrant workers in the 2000s, but the crime rates dropped drastically after dozens of neo-Nazis got lengthy prison sentences for extremism.

Rights activists and lawyers who have worked on extremism cases say the drop in violent hate crimes sent police and investigators scrambling to prosecute people for non-violent offenses to show a solid record of tackling extremism.

The Moscow-based Center for Economic and Political Reform said in a 23-page report on extremism law released this month that most convictions for this type of crime resulted in fines or a few days in custody, with the aim of boosting the crime statistics.

But as tensions with neighboring Ukraine heated up, courts across Russia began to hand out more and more prison sentences for hate speech, the report said.

Many of the hate speech convictions do deal with dubious content, but the severity of the punishment doesn’t seem to correspond to the level of public danger posed, said Verkhovsky of Sova.

“These cases are very arbitrary because there are lots more people out there who have done the same thing. Such enforcement of the law does not address or combat radical activities,” he said. “No one knows where the red line is: It’s like roulette.”

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Henry Sapiecha

On the run: Paul Ceglia

A man accused of faking an ownership stake in Facebook to justify a multibillion-dollar lawsuit against its founder Mark Zuckerberg has vanished.

Paul Ceglia, who was under house arrest in New York state pending his May 4 trial, jumped bail by slicing off an electronic monitoring device and creating a crude contraption to make it seem as though he was moving around inside his home, US authorities say.

Ceglia’s wife and two young sons and his family’s Jack Russell terrier, Buddy, have also disappeared.

“I’m confident in our team up here,” US Marshal Charles F. Salina said.

“He’s got to get lucky every day, we’ve got to get lucky once.”

Ceglia’s federal lawsuit said he gave Zuckerberg, a student at Harvard University at the time, $US1000 ($A1300) in startup money in exchange for 50 per cent of the future company.

The timing device.
The timing device.

But a judge dismissed his claims and prosecutors filed fraud charges after a forensic analysis of his computers and Harvard’s email archive determined he had altered an unrelated contract and falsified emails to make it appear Zuckerberg had promised him a half-share.

Ceglia, who pleaded not guilty, now faces up to 40 years in prison if convicted of mail fraud and wire fraud.

He went missing last weekend but it’s difficult to say when because he hung his electronic ankle bracelet on a motor-driven device that stretched to the ceiling and moved around, prosecutors explained in papers filed with the 2nd US Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan.

The contraption used to keep the ankle bracelet moving.

A missing-persons report was filed on Ceglia’s wife, Iasia Ceglia, and his two sons, 10-year-old Leenan and 11-year-old Joseffinn

Ceglia’s sister-in-law, Brianna Caster, used a Facebook page for her photography business in Newport Beach, California, to urge anyone who sees the wife and kids to call local authorities.

“To be honest, we’re not surprised at what he’s done,” she said by phone.

“What we’re shocked about is that our sister would disappear.”

No one was home on Sunday when state troopers knocked on Ceglia’s door. Armed with a search warrant, the US Marshals Service Fugitive Task Force returned that evening to the rural home in Wellsville, southeast of Buffalo, and busted in after hearing a mechanical noise inside.

Prosecutors filed their appeals court papers in a bid to nullify Ceglia’s attempt to throw out his criminal charges.

Ceglia said they unjustly stemmed from the claims he made in his 2010 lawsuit, which he said were based on a software development contract he signed with Zuckerberg in 2003.

A search of Ceglia’s hard drives uncovered the real April 28, 2003, contract, which Ceglia had emailed to a lawyer in March 2004, years before his suit against Facebook and Zuckerberg.

Zuckerberg, a likely witness at Ceglia’s trial, said he didn’t even come up with the idea for Facebook until months after he responded to Ceglia’s online help-wanted ad and signed a contract agreeing to create some software for him.

AP

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Henry Sapiecha

INDIAN GOVERNMENT TAKES STAND AGAINST IT GIANTS

IT IS SENSITIVE ABOUT POSTINGS ON SITES.

GET A GRIP MATE-JOIN THE REAL WORLD

India’s government has authorised the prosecution of 21 internet firms, including Facebook, Yahoo! and Google, in a case over obscene content posted online, sources say.

The approval could lead to company directors being called to a trial court in New Delhi to answer serious charges such as fomenting religious hatred and spreading social discord, an official and a lawyer said.

A criminal case against the web titans was first filed in a lower court by local journalist Vinay Rai, who complained that the sites were responsible for obscene and offensive material posted by users.

He also claimed they had broken laws designed to maintain religious harmony and “national integration” in India.

Rai’s lawyer, Sashi Prakash Tripathi, said: “We had applied for the government’s sanction and the ministry of communication and IT has filed it directly in the metropolitan magistrate’s court.”

The companies targeted have filed a petition in the Delhi High Court seeking to have the lower court’s case against them stayed. The hearing of the petition is to resume on Monday.

The lower court yesterday ordered that summons be served on the 10 foreign-based companies, including Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Yahoo! and YouTube.

The government’s sanction to prosecute represents an escalation of a recent tussle between social networks and the government.

Communications Minister Kapil Sibal last month pledged a crackdown on “unacceptable” online content and urged social networks to exert more control over their platforms.

He provided examples of religiously-sensitive images and obscene photoshopped pictures of Indian politicians.

Mukul Rohatgi, a lawyer for Google India, told the High Court on Thursday: “No human interference is possible and, moreover, it can’t be feasible to check such incidents.”

The companies will now hope the High Court stays the prosecution, but they received some hostile comments from a presiding judge.

“You must have a stringent check. Otherwise, like in China, we may pass orders banning all such websites,” the Delhi High Court said.

Companies should “develop a mechanism to keep a check and remove offensive and objectionable material from their web pages”, Justice Suresh Kait was quoted as saying by the Press Trust of India

Sourced & published by Henry Sapiecha

Facebook sly grog deliveries

set to dry up because of legalities

Asher Moses

June 1, 2011 – 12:41PM


Cheap booze deals for Sydneysiders advertised on Facebook.Cheap booze deals for Sydneysiders advertised on Facebook.

It’s sly grog for the 21st century. A Facebook page offering round-the-clock booze delivery in Sydney has piqued the interest of NSW liquor licensing authorities, who are threatening fines of $11,000 and a 12-month jail sentence.

The Blind Pig Sydney page recently went live on Facebook, offering free delivery of six packs of beer and bottles of wine for $15 a piece and bottles of vodka and whisky with mixers for $50.

Delivery in the inner west, eastern suburbs, north and south Sydney is free, according to the ad, and proof-of-age identification is required on delivery.

Sourced & published by Henry Sapiecha

Facebook declares

US lawsuit a fraud

May 28, 2011
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg . . . the company says Paul Ceglia's claim of ownership is a "fraud".Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg … the company says Paul Ceglia’s claim of ownership is a “fraud”. Photo: AP

BUFFALO, New York: Lawyers for Facebook are calling a man’s federal lawsuit claiming part ownership of the company ”a fraud & an affront on the court”.

In their latest legal response, the lawyers for Facebook have accused Paul Ceglia of doctoring a 2003 contract that he says proves he bought into the Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg’s idea for the site when Mr Zuckerberg was still at university.

Mr Ceglia ”has now come out of the woodwork seeking billions in damages,” the response filed in the US District Court in Buffalo said.

Mr Ceglia’s lawsuit relies on a two-page ”work for hire” contract.

Mr Ceglia says he and Mr Zuckerberg signed the contract after Mr Zuckerberg responded to his help-wanted ad for work on a street-mapping database he was creating.

According to the lawsuit, Mr Ceglia paid Mr Zuckerberg $US1000 to develop software for the street-mapping project and gave him another $US1000 after Mr Zuckerberg told him about his Facebook idea, with the condition Mr Ceglia would get half if it took off.

The company said the document was a fake. ”To be clear, Zuckerberg did not sign the purported agreement … which is a ‘cut-and-paste’ job fraudulently & self servingly manufactured by the plaintiff for this lawsuit,” the filing said.

Associated Press

Sourced & published by Henry Sapiecha

Facebook sued over social ads

using minors as endorsers

without permission

The Facebook like button... upside down.

May 4, 2011 – 7:37AM

Facebook, the world’s most popular social networking site, is being sued for not getting parents’ permission before displaying that minors “like” the products of its advertisers.

The lawsuit seeks class-action status on behalf of Facebook users in New York state under the age of 18 who had “their names or likenesses used on a Facebook feed or in an advertisement sold by Facebook Inc. without the consent of their parent or guardian”. The suit was filed in federal court in Brooklyn this week.

Facebook began offering “social ads”, which display the names and likenesses of users’ Facebook friends who click on the ads’ “like” button, in November 2007, according to the complaint. The names or likenesses are also displayed to friends when a user RSVPs for an advertised event, according to the complaint. The endorsements also show up on Facebook friends’ home-page feeds.

“Users can prevent their endorsements from being shared with their friends by limiting who can see their posts through their privacy settings,” according to the complaint. “There is, however, no mechanism in place by which a user can prevent their name and likeness from appearing on a Facebook page if they have ‘liked’ it.”

The suit was filed by Justin Nastro, a minor in Brooklyn, through his father, Frank Nastro. Facebook doesn’t seek parents’ permission for the minor users’ endorsements, according to the complaint.

The suit invokes the New York Civil Rights Law, which prevents using a person’s picture for advertising purposes without that person’s permission. The law allows suits for damages. The Nastros’ suit seeks revenue Facebook derived from the unauthorised commercial use of the names and images.

“We have not received the complaint so I’m unable to comment at this time,” Andrew Noyes, a Facebook spokesman, said in an email.

Bloomberg

Sourced & published by Henry Sapiecha

Preteen girls charged

over Facebook sex prank

April 28, 2011 – 6:42AM

Two preteen US girls accused of hacking into a classmate’s Facebook page and posting sexually explicit photos and messages have been charged with cyberstalking and first-degree computer trespassing.

The girls, ages 11 and 12, have been under investigation since the alleged victim’s family contacted Issaquah police in Washington state on March 18, according to the charges filed in King County Juvenile Court. According to the charges, the two defendants used the victim’s password information to post sexually explicit content on her Facebook page.

They also posted messages that indicated the victim was willing to perform sex acts on people.

The defendants instant-messaged some boys to arrange dates where sex acts were to be performed by the victim, according to the charges.

Jon Knight, the stepfather of the 12-year-old alleged victim, said his family is relieved that the case has resulted in criminal charges. He said that he wasn’t taken seriously when he reported the incident to Issaquah police and to staff at Issaquah Middle School.

Knight said his stepdaughter, Leslie Cote, has asked the media to use her name in hopes of bringing attention to the issue of cyberstalking.

Issaquah police were called to the Cote-Knight home on March 18 after Leslie’s mother, Tara Cote, called to report vulgar postings on her daughter’s Facebook page, charges said. A woman who mentored Leslie told the family that she had noticed photos on the page had been changed to show Leslie with “devil’s horns” and with the words “I’m a slut” scrawled across one image, prosecutors said.

The alterations and postings apparently became more vulgar as the night progressed.

Prosecutors said that Leslie had been over at a defendant’s house in early March when she logged into Facebook. Leslie’s password information was somehow stored on the other girl’s computer.

After the girls had a falling out, the defendants hacked into the page “with the intent of embarrassing and tormenting the victim,” Issaquah police Detective Ryan Raulerson wrote in the affidavit of probable cause filed to support the charges.

Sara Niegowski, spokeswoman for the Issaquah School District, said Tuesday the district was not conducting its own investigation into the incident because it did not occur on school property. She said the defendants are still enrolled at Issaquah Middle School.

“This incident happened off-campus, off school time and not related to our school environments. There is no disciplinary action at all. It’s not a school district incident,” Niegowski said.

Niegowski said that the incident has not been a disruption at the school.

“You know what’s a disruption is the media coverage,” she said. “We always look out for the welfare of our students.”

Knight said that his stepdaughter has been granted a restraining order forbidding the defendants from contacting her and barring them from riding her school bus. The three girls are in some of the same classes, Knight said.

On Tuesday, King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg said, “This case reveals the dark side of social media sites used by young people.”

In a news release, Satterberg wrote: “Many kids think that on a social media site that their actions will be anonymous and that they are free to use it as weapon to bully, harass, and intimidate another person. This case demonstrates that assuming the identity of another person on the Internet with the intent to torment them and expose them to the harassment of others is a crime.”

MCT  


Teacher suspended

over vitriolic blog

Patrick Walters

February 18, 2011

Suspended ... Natalie Munroe.
Suspended … Natalie Munroe. Photo: AP

FEASTERVILLE, Pennsylvania: A high-school English teacher in suburban Philadelphia who was suspended for a profanity-laced blog in which she called her young charges ”disengaged, lazy whiners” is causing a sensation by daring to ask: why are students unmotivated – and what’s wrong with calling them out?

As she fights to keep her job at Central Bucks East High School, 30-year-old Natalie Munroe says she had no interest in becoming any sort of educational icon.

Her comments and her suspension have clearly touched a nerve, with scores of online comments applauding her for taking a tough-love approach or excoriating her for verbal abuse. Media attention has rained down and backers have started a Facebook group.

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”My students are out of control,” Ms Munroe, who has taught 10th, 11th and 12th grades, wrote in one post. ”They are rude, disengaged, lazy whiners. They curse, discuss drugs, talk back, argue for grades, complain about everything, fancy themselves entitled to whatever they desire, and are just generally annoying.”

And in another post, Ms Munroe – who is more than eight months pregnant – quotes from the musical Bye Bye Birdie: ”Kids! They are disobedient, disrespectful oafs. Noisy, crazy, sloppy, lazy LOAFERS.”

She also listed some comments she wished she could post on student evaluations, including: ”I hear the trash company is hiring”; ”I called out sick a couple of days just to avoid your son”; and ”Just as bad as his sibling. Don’t you know how to raise kids?”

Ms Munroe did not use her full name or identify her students or school in the blog, which she started in August 2009 for friends and family. Last week, she said, students brought it to the attention of the school, which suspended her with pay.

”They get angry when you ask them to think or be creative,” Ms Munroe said of her students. ”The students are not being held accountable.”

Ms Munroe pointed out that she also said positive things, but she acknowledges that she did write some things out of frustration – and of a feeling that many children today are being given a free pass at school and at home.

”Parents are more trying to be their kids’ friends and less trying to be their parent,” Ms Munroe said, also noting students’ lack of patience. ”They want everything right now. They want it yesterday.”

Ms Munroe has hired a lawyer, who said that she had the right to post her thoughts on the blog and that it’s a free speech issue.

Associated Press

Sourced & published by Henry Sapiecha


January 12th, 2011 FACEBOOK, LEGAL COURT none Comments

‘The Winklevii’ bid to renew

multimillion-dollar stoush

with Facebook doubtful

January 12, 2011 – 6:22AM
Legal stoush ... Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss say Mark Zuckerberg owes them money.
Legal stoush … Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss say Mark Zuckerberg owes them money. Photo: Getty Images

Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss found a skeptical audience this week as they tried to persuade a US appeals court to let them out of a $US65 million settlement over the founding of online social network Facebook.

The saga of the Winklevoss twins and Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg became silver screen lore with the release of the film “The Social Network” last year. It has long been a legal battle as well.

The 6-foot, 5-inch (1.96-metre) brothers were hard to miss in the front row at the US Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday, US time. The two, Olympic rowers who participated in the 2008 games in Beijing, both wore dark suits and listened quietly as a three-judge panel peppered their attorney with questions.

Zuckerberg did not attend.

The Winklevoss twins, along with Divya Narendra, started a company called ConnectU while they were students at Harvard University. They say that fellow Harvard student and Facebook founder Zuckerberg stole their idea. Facebook denies these claims.

The twins argue that based on an internal valuation at the time that Facebook did not disclose, they should have received more Facebook shares as part of the 2008 settlement of the dispute. Facebook argues it was under no obligation to reveal an internal valuation.

Senior Judge J. Clifford Wallace pointed out that the twins had several lawyers representing them at settlement talks and that their father is a business expert.

That makes it difficult to believe that anyone took advantage of them, Wallace said.

“I agree my clients were not behind the barn door when brains were passed out,” said Jerome Falk, an attorney for the twins.

After the hearing, Cameron Winklevoss said they are looking forward to a decision.

“I just think it’s in the hands of the court,” he said.

A Facebook representative said via email that the company appreciates the court’s time and also looks forward to a decision.

Facebook earned $US355 million in net income and $US1.2 billion of revenue in 2010’s first nine months, according to documents that Goldman Sachs provided to clients last week to entice investors in a special fund set up to invest in the social networking giant.

A growing secondary market has developed for buying and selling private shares of Facebook, and many investors are eagerly anticipating a potential initial public offering of Facebook.

At one point the ConnectU founders agreed to a settlement valued at $US65 million in cash and stock, Falk noted during the proceeding.

“Then they suffered a bout of settlers’ remorse,” Facebook said in a court filing.

A federal trial court judge refused to allow the twins to get out of the deal. They then appealed to the 9th Circuit.

Facebook attorney E. Joshua Rosenkranz also argued that the ConnectU founders were surrounded by a “platoon” of lawyers when they negotiated the deal.

“No one was misled here,” Rosenkranz said.

Goldman Sachs and Russia’s Digital Sky Technologies this month snagged a deal to invest up to $US1.5 billion in Facebook, valuing the world’s No. 1 social network at roughly $US50 billion – exceeding the likes of Yahoo! and many other large, multinational companies.

Google, operator of the world’s No. 1 internet search engine, has a market capitalisation of roughly $US197 billion

Sourced & published by Henry Sapiecha