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21 Jul, 2021 11:28

Women ball-gagged by man in Zuckerberg mask as part of St Petersburg flash mob protesting ‘violent’ social media speech censorship

Women ball-gagged by man in Zuckerberg mask as part of St Petersburg flash mob protesting ‘violent’ social media speech censorship

A bizarre and dramatic piece of performance art was staged in Russia’s second city, St. Petersburg, last week, featuring men dressed as tech tycoons chasing and gagging three young women with the logos of major online platforms.

The protest, staged by a notorious flash mob group, came to light when the video was discovered by local news outlets on Tuesday. The clip features three figures dressed respectively as Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, and Sergey Brin, the co-founder of Google, which owns YouTube. The group violently attacks three women, whose mouths have been grotesquely fitted with ball-gags featuring the symbols of Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.

One of the activists who staged the performance, Maria Rein, said the rationale behind the protests was to highlight the fact that “violence against freedom of speech occurs publicly all the time, without any hesitation, in front of everyone.” Rein has previously starred in a series of provocative and controversial clips aimed at starting conversations around social issues.

Earlier this year, Russian President Vladimir Putin warned that American tech giants were making increasingly unaccountable decisions over content. “These platforms are, of course, primarily businesses … and what is the primary concern of a business? Making a profit,” he said. “They don’t care if this content or that content causes harm for the people at whom it is directed ... After all, these modern IT companies are more and more beginning to control people’s consciousnesses.”

Putin added that there was sometimes a case for restricting access to certain online materials, adding that “we must think about it, and react to it.” But, he insisted, “we must not make decisions that would limit human freedoms – the freedom of choice and freedom of speech.”

On Sunday, Russia’s state media regulator, Roskomnadzor, said that YouTube was a repeat offender when it came to censorship of content from the country. According to officials, the video streaming platform, “more often than other foreign services, restricts access to materials from Russian media. In total, about 30 cases of censorship of Russian publications and information resources have been identified.”

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At the same time, they claimed, “YouTube is the leader in the number of unlawful content that has not been deleted.” The agency went on to add that it had sent Google more than 24,000 requests to remove prohibited content, but that close to 5,000 posts had not been removed.

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