Social media platforms are taking down Russians’ calls to protest in support of jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny over the government’s claims that they illegally incite minors to attend unauthorized rallies.
Navalny was detained and jailed for a month shortly after returning to Russia from Germany, where he had been hospitalized with what Western scientists determined to be nerve agent poisoning. After he called on his supporters to stage nationwide street protests on Saturday, videos and posts promoting the rallies quickly went viral, primarily on youth-friendly video app TikTok.
TikTok has deleted 38% of videos calling for minors to attend Saturday’s nationwide protests on Saturday, Russia’s state censor Roskomnadzor said Friday.
Other social networks followed suit with about 50% of posts deleted from YouTube and VKontake, while 17% of posts disappeared from Instagram, according to Roskomnadzor.
The posts calling for mass protests spread like wildfire as young Russians filmed themselves dressing up and packing for the upcoming rallies, with many expressing readiness for the authorities to detain them.
High school students also launched a viral TikTok trend in which they replaced President Vladimir Putin’s portraits in their classrooms with Navalny’s photo.
On TikTok alone, hashtags #freeNavalny and #23January had gained more than 200 million views by 11 a.m. on Friday, the Open Media news website reported.
“Increased activity continues to appear on the social networks and new calls appear, the distribution of which is, among other things, artificial,” Roskomnadzor said in a statement.
Several of the high school students who posted on TikTok were summoned to police stations for questioning and “educational” chats, the Meduza news website reported.
“Roskomnadzor continues to interact with internet platforms in order to stop the involvement of minors in unauthorized rallies,” the watchdog said.