- Russian influencer Veronika Loginova could be facing 6 years in prison for using Instagram.
- Instagram and Facebook have been banned in Russia since March.
- Loginova said she had never posted anything political, and said the decision was “bullshit.”
Russian influencer Veronika Loginova, 18, could be facing 6 years in prison for using Instagram. She posted a statement on the app on Wednesday, where she has 556,000 followers, saying her mother had phoned her in August because police had turned up to her family’s house. She attached photos of a letter she received from Russian prosecutors.
Loginova stated in the post that two men turned up with a notice that threatened her with a jail term for using Instagram, claiming that she was drawing too much attention. Her 14-year-old brother was in the house at the time, confused at why officers had come looking for her.
This is the first case of an individual in Russia being persecuted for using Instagram, which has been banned with Facebook in the country since March for being “extremist,” according to Roskomsvoboda — a Russian digital rights group that fights internet censorship. The ban followed Russia’s full scale invasion of Ukraine in February, which led to the country becoming increasingly isolated from the global internet and major social media platforms.
The letter was sent by Kuntsevo Interdistrict Prosecutor’s Office, Roskomsvoboda reported, and accuses Loginova of performing “actions to attract users on the social networks Facebook and Instagram” and that her continuing to post on there “can be considered as a form of participation in the activities of an extremist organization.”
To the allegations, Loginova wrote “Are you serious? Me? An 18-year-old girl and fashion blogger?” She also denied having posted anything political on her social media at all.
She added that she would consider leaving Instagram and escaping from Russia, and would be posting updates on Instagram about whatever she decides. Loginova said she had support, and that she wanted as many people to know about her situation as possible — adding that it was “complete bullshit.”
Cataline Goanta, associate professor in private law and technology at Utrecht University, told Insider that when government agencies see what is happening on social media, there’s “a lot of cherry picking.” In Loginova’s post, she says she doesn’t understand why she is being targeted. Goanta said it may be because someone reported her specifically, although there’s no way to know for sure.
“It shows a problem with justice and equality,” Goanta said. “And the fact that basically you’re going to go after the people who you see.”
Sargis Darbinyan, the head of the legal practice of Roskomsvoboda, said in the organization’s statement that a Russian citizen being perspecuted for using Instagram means “everything is under attack, even those who post cats.”
Someone who asks people to follow them on Instagram could face up to 14 years in prison, Darbinyan said, according to the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation.
Darbinyan added that Roskomsvoboda sent an appeal to the prosecutor’s office asking for more clarification on Loginova’s charges.
There’s also a strange dynamic at play in the case, Goanta said, because if Loginova were to name other influencers it would potentially incriminate them too.
“Maybe some others also received these visits and were too afraid to write about it,” she said.
Insider has reached out to Instagram for comment.