Still Screenshot by Re/code
Instagram had a rough day yesterday, thanks to a sharp-eyed blogger’s discovery of some extreme homophobia in Russia making its way across social media with nary a peep from that adorable Daft-Punk-singing Russian police force.
The left-leaning AmericaBlog, active since 2004, has a history of controversial, albeit pro-gay, coverage of LGBT issues — most notably for “outing” GOP operatives who, to its view, are publicly and hypocritically promoting an anti-gay agenda. Editor John Aravosis famously inspired legislation to protect the privacy of cellphone records. But yesterday, Aravosis had his mind on other issues: Namely, his discovery that a Russian neo-Nazi hate group calling itself “Occupy Pedophilia” was using Instagram to record and publicize its members stalking, abducting, torturing and publicly humiliating homosexuals.
It’s not a terribly difficult job catching these people – the kidnappers not only film their victims and post the videos online, they also film their own faces during the abduction and torture. It’s not exactly forensic rocket science figuring out who they are. — John Aravosis
Why, he asked, were Russian authorities not using the evidence of wrongdoing, clearly provided by the perpetrators, to arrest and stop the harassment? Given the repressive laws recently passed under Putin’s regime, it seems that protection of LGBT citizens may not be a priority.
Be that as it may, broadcasting the crimes was a clear violation of the terms of service of Instagram, Facebook and VK, the three social networks used by the hate groups. Though Aravosis has been covering these posts since July of 2013, the story took on new life when sex-advice columnist and LGBT activist Dan Savage caught wind of it yesterday and tweeted out one of Aravosis’s recent stories.
“Dan has so many committed followers that he was crucial in making this story explode,” said Aravosis. Within hours, the offending posts and the accounts that spawned them had been removed from Instagram. “They’ve been wonderfully responsive,” added Aravosis.
For its part, an Instagram spokeswoman said, “In general, we need … content to be reported to us in order for us to review it and take action if it violates.” There are, she continued, “report links on every photo, video and comment on Instagram,” and “we review all reports within 48 hours.”
We’re still waiting to hear back from Facebook. “One profile [of a member of the hate group] has been taken down,” said Aravosis, “but the profile of [Maks Martsinkevich,] the ringleader of Occupy Pedophilia, which includes numerous posts of his abduction videos in his timeline, is still live.” Facebook did not respond immediately to a request for comment; at press time, the account was still active.
And as for the Russian version of Facebook, VK, well … it’s about as responsive as the fifth ring in the Olympic opening ceremonies. The hate group “has been posting their videos on VK.com for over a year — I counted over 80 videos in two accounts last night — but what’s worse, Occupy Pedophilia has a “help wanted” ad up on their account asking if anyone can provide an apartment for their next kidnapping. As of last night, VK claimed the offending accounts would be removed, but again, at press time, they were still up.
Update: Facebook has now removed the Maks Martsinkevich profile.