Russia media regulator begins investigation into language learning service Duolingo for alleged ‘LGBT propaganda’ – JURIST

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Russia media regulator Roskomnadzor Friday began an investigation into the alleged spread of “LGBT propaganda” by the language learning application Duolingo, as reported by TASS, Russia’s state news agency.

Duolingo, an American-based language learning application established in 2011, has come under scrutiny following allegations of promoting “LGBT propaganda.” The request for investigation reportedly stemmed from objections raised by the Novosibirsk-based human rights group Radatel.

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Article 5 of the Federal Law “On the Protection of Children from Information Harmful to Their Health and Development” categorizes the promotion of non-traditional sexual relations as detrimental to children’s health and development. Redatel cited concerns with specific sentences on the Duolingo app, such as “Ben and Peter love each other. They are gay,” and “Clara met her wife Maria at a lesbian bar.”  The group said this has created a dilemma for parents, who they claim struggle to explain the content in a manner that does not harm the psyche of elementary school children. However, the media regulator denied having received such complaints.

This investigation is another example of the hostile environment LGBTQ+ people face in Russia. The LGBTQ+ community in Russia has to contend with significant legal and societal challenges, including restrictions on advocacy, recognition, and marriage rights, which are further exacerbated by governmental measures.

In 2022, the Russian State Duma passed a bill that expanded the existing legislation concerning LGBTQ material. This bill amended the 2013 law, widely known as “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations among minors,” to encompass individuals of all age groups. Part 1 of Article 6.21 of the amended legislation which addresses “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations,” imposes hefty fines on offenders.

In addition, the Russia Supreme Court in December 2023 declared the “international LGBT movement” an extremist organization, effectively banning LGBTQ+ activities within the country. This decision was met with condemnation from numerous human rights organizations, which called for its reversal. Moreover, in 2020, the Russian Constitution was amended to explicitly state that marriage in Russia is legally recognized only between a man and a woman, as outlined in Article 1 of its Family Code. The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ordered Russia to legalize same-sex unions. Russia responded that it is at early stage of societal development, rendering them unprepared to implement such measures.

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