Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Moscow to Use Computerized Robots to Determine Whether Texts are Extremist

Paul Goble

            Staunton, October 19 -- Because of its proclivity for grinding out legislation at a rapid rate, the Russian Duma has sometimes been called “the copier” or “the printing press.” But now the Russian interior ministry is set to introduce the use of a robot to determine which texts are extremist and which are not.

            On the one hand, that may simplify matters for the authorities by ensuring that there are fewer disputes among experts over what constitutes extremism and that court decisions, which in Russia do not constitute precedents,  nonetheless will guide new investigations on the basis of what earlier cases have found.

            But on the other, by computerizing and thus speeding up and making less costly the process of investigating whether a text is extremist in terms of Russian law, this use of a programmed robot will undoubtedly lead to more cases and more findings of extremism across the country.

            Yesterday, the interior ministry announced that it will soon begin making use of a robot named FOB as a way of comparing new materials suspected of containing extremist texts with texts that have already been found to be such ( and

            The FOB robots will be continually updated as new texts are determined to be extremist and thus “automate” the process of determining what new publications are extremist and what ones are not.  At least initially, it will be used in cases where texts are combined with sounds or video clips.  Supposedly, experts can continue to handle texts alone.

            The system has been undergoing texts and has been sent to regional units of law enforcement, but it has not yet been applied in any major case.  That development, however, can be expected in the near future.

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