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Russian Duolingo platform removes LGBTQ+ references to comply with govt orders

The widely-used language learning platform Duolingo has removed references to LGBTQ+ individuals from its Russian version at the request of Moscow, according to a report from the state-run news agency TASS on Tuesday.

This spring, Russia’s state media regulator Roskomnadzor ordered Duolingo to comply with its “LGBT propaganda” law after conservative activists flagged phrases like “Ben and Peter love each other” and “Clara met her wife Maria at a lesbian bar” on the app.

If Duolingo did not comply, it faced a fine of up to 4 million rubles ($45,000) or a potential ban in Russia.

Roskomnadzor informed TASS that “Duolingo has sent a letter of reply confirming that it had removed materials promoting non-traditional sexual relations from the learning app.”

In 2013, Russia banned the “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations” aimed at minors.

A decade later, President Vladimir Putin extended the ban to include public displays of non-traditional relationships and lifestyles for people of all ages.

Rights groups have criticized the Russian government for its vague definition of “gay propaganda,” warning that the ambiguous criteria allow for arbitrary fines against TV channels and websites.

Since the invasion of Ukraine in 2022, Putin has intensified Moscow’s suppression of the LGBTQ+ community as part of a larger “culture war” with the West.

In that same year, Duolingo disabled monetization in Russia and Belarus to show solidarity with Ukraine.

Late last year, Russia’s Supreme Court declared the non-existent “international LGBT movement” as “extremist,” effectively banning LGBTQ+ activism.

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I am an experienced writer, analyst, and author. My exposure in English journalism spans more than 28 years. In the past, I have been working with daily The Muslim (Lahore Bureau), daily Business Recorder (Lahore/Islamabad Bureaus), Daily Times, Islamabad, daily The Nation (Lahore and Karachi). With daily The Nation, I have served as Resident Editor, Karachi. Since 2009, I have been working as a Freelance Writer/Editor for American organizations.

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