NEWSWATCH: “Don’t ‘overdo’ it online, if you fear the fuzz; A linguist explains the messy science that fuels Russia’s anti-extremism policing” – Meduza
“The number of ‘extremist’ crimes committed in Russia has been growing for the past several years. According to the ‘Sova’ analytical center, police launched 563 extremism investigations in 2016 and 858 new cases in 2017. Most of the suspects in these investigations are ordinary Internet users who have expressed their political views on social media. Dozens of these people have appealed to the European Court of Human Rights, claiming that they are the victims of illegal persecution. Many of the sentences handed out for extremist crimes are based on linguistic analyses provided to the authorities, and these experts rarely contradict investigators’ charges. Meduza correspondent Irina Kravtsova spoke to Igor Ogorelkov, the head of the Moscow Research Center’s linguistics department, to find out what qualifies as online extremism. (It turns out that Russia’s experts are still working on that one.)
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Q: Do your experts and the analysts at other centers in other regions share common criteria or algorithms that allow you to determine when something written online is extremist?
[A:] The Interior Ministry, the Federal Investigative Committee, the Justice Ministry, and various private expert groups all use their own methods. Unfortunately, they all differ, and to this day we don’t have a shared, interdepartmental approach to analyzing materials identified in extremism cases.
Also, with the development of the Internet, we got something new: polycode text – images with text. Right now, we’re spending most of our time studying this ….”
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