Belarus Has Legal Framework to Designate Social Media Activity as 'Extremist'- Authorities

© AFP 2022 / KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEVThis picture taken in Moscow on October 5, 2021 shows the US online social media and social networking service Facebook's logo (R), the US instant messaging software Whatsapp's logo (L) and the US social network Instagram's logo (C) on a smartphone screen.
This picture taken in Moscow on October 5, 2021 shows the US online social media and social networking service Facebook's logo (R), the US instant messaging software Whatsapp's logo (L) and the US social network Instagram's logo (C) on a smartphone screen.  - Sputnik International, 1920, 14.10.2021
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MINSK (Sputnik) - The Belarusian Ministry of Internal Affairs has confirmed the existence of legal conditions for the recognition of groups carrying out activities considered extremist on social media as "extremist formations," the head of the ministry's Main Directorate for Combating Organized Crime and Corruption said on Thursday.
"The document gives a start to the legal recognition of citizens engaged in extremist activities, including internet messengers and social networks, as extremist formations. I would like to note that extremist formations include information products used to engage in extremist activities and propaganda thereof, recognized by a court decision," Vyacheslav Orlovsky said.
The decree adopted on Thursday designates as "extremist formations" those citizens who have gathered in one way or another, including on the internet, in order to create extremist materials, popularize and disseminate them, and carry out other activities aimed at undermining national security of Belarus, the official explained.
The participants of "extremist formations" will be prosecuted under Belarus' Criminal Code, particularly under  Article 361 addressing the calls for action harming the country's sovereignty, territorial integrity, national security and defense capacity, which is punishable by up to seven years in prison.
Subscribers of banned Telegram channels labeled as "extremist" in Belarus will be equated to members of extremist groups, with the lists of banned channels being updated by the interior ministry.
The regulation enters into force on Friday.
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