18-year-old Russian influencer Veronika Loginova is facing up to six years in jail for continuing to use the popular social media app Instagram, which was banned in Russia in March amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Loginova announced on her Instagram on Tuesday.
Loginova, a fashion influencer who claims she has never posted any political content on her profile, becomes the first Russian national to be prosecuted for using Instagram, which the Russian government declared an “extremist organization” on March 11th along with Facebook, both of which are owned by parent company Meta Platforms.
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The prosecutor’s statement claimed that posting on the apps “can be considered a form of participation in the activities of an extremist organization,” adding that an audit had been conducted of Loginova’s content.
"This can happen to anyone in Russia now,” Loginova shared with her 555,000 followers. “Prosecutors can come to your home every day. I have never touched politics and now I am facing imprisonment for managing an Instagram account."
“Prosecutors can come to your home every day. I have never touched politics and now I am facing imprisonment for managing an Instagram account."Veronika Loginova
A double standard
While Russia banned the ubiquitous app in early 2022, Russian social media enthusiasts have continued to use the app via VPN.
Although Loginova is the first to be prosecuted for Instagram usage, the charges stoked fears across Russia that a larger social media crackdown was looming.
“This is, of course, not at all what the prosecutors promised when they recognized Instagram and Facebook as extremist when they publicly stated that this decision would not affect end users,” Russian digital rights NGO Roskomsvoboda said in a statement posted on the messaging app Telegram. “Now it turns out that it does… According to the logic of the prosecutor, now for anyone saying ‘follow me on Instagram’ they are threatened with up to 14 years in prison!”
Family members of Russian government officials have continued to use the app without consequence. For instance, Russian Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov’s wife has continued to use Instagram since the ban was implemented, while Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu's daughter, Ksenia, recently posted a photo of her on the beach on her Instagram account.