News (World)

Duolingo removes LGBTQ+ content for Russian users

A person using Duolingo
Photo: Shutterstock

Duolingo has removed LGBTQ+ inclusive content from the Russian version of its app. According to Meduza, the language learning app took the step in order to comply with the country’s draconian laws banning LGBTQ+ “propaganda.”

The move comes several months after Russia’s Federal Service for Supervision of Communications, Information Technology and Mass Media, or Roskomnadzor (RKN), received a complaint about Duolingo from an activist group based in the Siberian city of Novosibirsk. In February, Latvia-based independent Russian news outlet Novaya Gazeta Europe reported that the group, Radetel, had shared screenshots from the app’s English exercises that included the words “lesbian” and “gay” with RKN.

So-called LGBTQ+ “propaganda” is illegal in Russia. In 2022, the country passed a law essentially banning any public expression of support for LGBTQ+ people. It was an expansion of a 2013 law banning so-called “gay propaganda” in the presence of children.

Late last year, at the request of President Vladimir Putin’s Ministry of Justice, Russia’s Supreme Court declared the “international LGBT social movement” an “extremist organization,” further stifling the expression of LGBTQ+ identity and support for the LGBTQ+ community in the country.

In their complaint, Radetel referred to LGBTQ+ people as “sodomites” and said “outraged” parents brought the “propaganda” to their attention. They described the gay content as “traumatizing.”

RKN confirmed to the state-run TASS news service that it was “checking the application for the dissemination of information promoting LGBT people.”

According to Meduza, in April, TASS reported that RKN had ordered Duolingo to remove any content that violated Russia’s “gay propaganda” laws. On Tuesday, TASS said the company had complied with the order.

On its website, the U.S.-based Duolingo, which teaches over 40 languages to more than 60 million users worldwide, states that it “believes deeply in diversity and representation” and that its lessons include “all types of characters of different ages, ethnic backgrounds, and sexual orientations.”

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