11 февраля 2021

Briefing by Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova, Moscow, February 11, 2021: social media censorship in France

We have said many times that global US internet companies grossly violate freedom of speech. I would like to once again draw your attention to the Federation Council’s statement about double standards, blatant bias, the absence of civilised legal regulation and the abuse of existing regulations.

In addition to outstanding cases, such as blocking the accounts of former US President Donald Trump, there are less conspicuous, but no less prominent cases. Here’s a case of suppressing freedom of speech on social media in Europe, in particular, France (we are talking about US online platforms). In late December 2020, French senator Sebastien Meurant’s Twitter account was blocked on a far-fetched pretext, in fact, for expressing an opinion. This is not the only such case. The online magazine Boulevard Voltaire suffered the same fate for using a portion of the famous painting by Eugene Delacroix Liberty Leading the People as a logo. This is nothing short of a travesty. This painting is the symbol of France known beyond France and is seen as that country’s symbol by many countries and peoples. Twitter referred to it as “violation of rules governing graphic violence and adult content.”

We are baffled by the fact that the official Paris and the mainstream French media are taking these absurd and outlandish developments in their stride, despite being zealous defenders of freedom of speech when it comes to the countries that are not members of the elite club titled “the free world.” For some reason, the Americans have remained silent on this account, and the US State Department has not come up with any written statement. We are looking forward to it. Perhaps, they will come up with something sooner or later. It may well be that when it comes to censorship on the part of US online platforms, principles don’t matter as much.

To reiterate, digital dictate, censorship and even more so the use of social media as a tool for interfering in sovereign states’ affairs is unacceptable in principle, regardless of the country of origin of a platform in question. Notably, ensuring freedom of speech is the duty of any legal democratic state. The decisions must be based on law and not be hostages to the political views of any group of people. By the way, this is enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which our Western partners, including in the EU countries, Paris included, like to cite.

In this regard, we would like to note that the Russian media have long been accustomed to the fact that their activities abroad are subjected to censorship, and have successfully adapted to this challenging working environment. However, this doesn’t mean that we have accepted this as a norm.