Vkontakte, Russia’s version of Facebook, is being heavily criticised by LGBT groups over its refusal to add relationship marker options for same-sex relationships.
According to the Radio Free Europe, Radio Liberty site, the problem was highlighted when a male user wrote to administrators for the site requesting an option to change his status to ‘I have a boyfriend’. The site says that he was reportedly told that ‘gay marriages were banned in Russia and advised to “change sex” online’.
LGBT protesters are encouraging people to pressure the site to change its policy. Competitor Facebook has already implemented icons representing gay marriage and pressure groups are hoping that as Russia’s largest social network, Vkontakte will follow suit.
So far the Vkontakte has managed to fend off Facebook within Russian-speaking countries. However, Facebook is not under the same restrictions as St Petersburg-based Vkontakte is.
As the Moscow Times points out, the Russian company is subject to laws that apply to St Petersburg and other cities in Russia that ban the exposure of so-called “homosexual propaganda” to minors. Under this legislation, companies can be fined 5,000 to 500,000 rubles ($154 to $15,300).
Added to this, Gay Star News reports that Russian Orthodox activists have been campaigning for a nation-wide ban on Facebook because of the introduction of its same-sex marriage symbols.
The Moscow Times says that “In response to questions from journalists, a Vkontakte spokesman said the site had no intention of changing its policy.”
Though the lack of options is a deeply unfair move when it comes to representing society online, Vkontakte has its hands tied with local legislation. It remains to be seen if the company is powerful enough to influence the law, but for now it appears that LGBT digital networks will be better off finding their freedom of expression on Facebook.
Image Credit: Basykes