The Supreme Court believes that social media posts can harm reputation

    The Supreme Court of the Russian Federation overturned the decisions of three courts of lower instances for 2015 that statements in social networks were initially evaluative and, therefore, could not damage their reputation, according to Izvestia.

    In 2015, the courts considered the case on the statements of the curator of the archeology fund of the National Museum of the Republic of Bashkortostan Svetlana Vorobyova in the archaeological group VKontakte. It was these decisions that were overturned by the Supreme Court.

    Then Vorobyov was indignant at the actions of the local branch of the Federal State Unitary Enterprise “Russian Television and Radio Broadcasting Network” (RTRS), who planned to carry out construction work on the site where preliminary archaeological excavations should have been carried out. The custodian of the fund expressed the opinion that the preparation for the work was conducted with violations.

    As a result, RTRS filed an archeologist with the court and accused Vorobyov of disseminating information, discrediting the organization. According to the lawsuit, RTRS demanded to recover from the keeper 218 thousand rubles of loss for the delay of works, as well as to rebut the previously expressed opinion.

    Back in 2005, the Supreme Court recognized that value judgments and opinions cannot be the reason for filing a claim. Based on this decision, the lower instances rejected RTRS claims for damage to reputation, but now the Supreme Court has changed its position on this issue.

    “Publications in social networks, both on a personal page and in communities, are of a public nature,” lawyer Viktor Naumov said.

    Changing the approach to the consideration of such cases by the Supreme Court fits into the current practice: people who have published controversial materials and records on personal pages on social networks are now subject to civil and criminal prosecution. The most striking example is the implementation of the law “On the protection of religious beliefs and the feelings of citizens.”

    According to lawyers, it is possible to freely express one’s opinion without breaking the law only in closed groups of social networks, the number of participants in which is strongly limited. At the same time, when considering cases of such records, the court will assess the degree of “closeness” of the group and the audience reach.

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