‘They’re bugs & we will crush them!’ Putin issues fiery warning about activists & criminals taking advantage of children online

Russia’s president has condemned “criminals” using the internet to target children for nefarious purposes, such as encouraging attendance at political rallies, like those in support of jailed opposition figure Alexey Navalny.

In a meeting with civic volunteers on Thursday, Vladimir Putin claimed that some accounts were even encouraging minors to commit suicide, arguing that they would feel the full force of the law. “When the police get to these freaks,” he said, “they might be Rambo on the internet, pushing a boy or a girl to jump from a roof, but they will fill their pants. When the bastard is sitting there in front of you, he’s a bug and we don’t mind just crushing him.”

The president’s comments come on the back of another colorful comparison aimed at those taking advantage of children online. During a meeting at the Ministry of Internal Affairs on Wednesday, Putin told officials that more action was needed to crack down on people using the internet to “try to take advantage of children in cold blood [in order to] achieve their own selfish, ‘ferret’ goals.”

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“It is necessary, together with colleagues from other ministries, to monitor the intent and more actively identify those using networks to draw minors into illegal actions,” he added.

Specifically, he argued, “the fact that minors are being drawn into unauthorized street protests is, of course, a violation of the law, and in accordance with the law, it is imperative to respond to this.”

The president gave a stark review of online safety, insisting that the internet is being used “to promote completely unacceptable content: for the distribution of child pornography, prostitution, for driving minors to suicide.”

Exactly who the president was calling a “ferret” wasn’t immediately clear, and Kremlin Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov sought to offer up greater detail on Thursday. The spokesman told journalists that “he was talking about those who call on children to take to the streets, breaking the law, and to participate in uncoordinated, unauthorized actions… he was talking about those who are engaged in criminal activity.”

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On Tuesday, the head of Russia’s Investigative Committee, Alexander Bastrykin, ordered a probe into a series of social media posts that reportedly encouraged child suicide. According to detectives, videos were being shared promoting harmful and unsafe actions. One clip, shared widely on TikTok, was said to be the primary cause of concern, but US-based Twitter and Instagram were also accused of hosting the material.

That day, the country’s media regulator, Roskomnadzor, told journalists that 451 separate sources of content on social media had been blocked for that reason. The bans come after a new law came into force across Russia at the start of February requiring networking giants to crack down on harmful posts and videos.

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