Is LinkedIn’s ban on a Ukrainian’s posts a threat to free speech?

There are many ways Ukrainians are battling Russian aggression (“How to puncture Russia’s disinformation bubble”, FT View, March 14).

While my family and I have had to leave our home in Irpin, a suburb of Kyiv, I still have a chance to work, pay salaries to my employees and pay taxes to support our army. I have also decided to be active on LinkedIn, where I have thousands of contacts across the whole world.

In my LinkedIn posts, I have been focusing on the truth, although, that truth does not necessarily sound nice to Russians and those who support them. In particular, I have been vocal about Russian society’s responsibility for the war, and the responsibility of ordinary Russians to influence their own army to wage war in accordance with international rules. I have also been vocal about the similarities of Vladimir Putin’s regime with that of Hitler’s Nazi Germany.

However, it appears that LinkedIn was not happy with my activity. After a post, which featured a cartoon of a Ukrainian soldier cradling a baby, and a Russian conscript pillaging food off locals, LinkedIn decided to restrict my account completely, arguing that my behaviour was in breach of their terms of service.

Russians have “restricted” me and my family from our home (like millions of Ukrainians), while LinkedIn has restricted me from my LinkedIn account, which I have had for about 15 years. Is there any difference between Russians and LinkedIn?

We are talking about LinkedIn, the social network which is prohibited in Russia and which is a US company and part of Microsoft. While the global business world has become so much focused on environmental, social and governance issues, I just wonder which part of that “environmental, social and governance” rubric was LinkedIn following in my case?

I fully appreciate my situation is very minor, compared to all the difficulties that other people in Ukraine are going through. I am looking more from the point of view of how important global companies, such as media companies, are applying the freedom of speech principle which may not necessarily appear — at first glance — as a business value.

Taras Dumych
Partner, Wolf Theiss — Attorneys-at-Law Kyiv, Ukraine

Posted in #standwithUkraine