Former Russian football international Dmitri Khokhlov is taking Facebook to court, accusing the social media giant of causing “moral harm” by interpreting his surname as a derogatory term for Ukrainians.
Khokhlov, 45, filed a lawsuit against the company headed by billionaire Mark Zuckerberg at Moscow’s Solntsevsky District Court back in July. A preliminary hearing was held earlier this month, according to news outlet Octagon.
The angry Khokhlov has accused Facebook and Instagram of blocking uses of his surname through their algorithms because of its similarity to the word ‘khokhol’, which is sometimes used derisively to refer to Ukrainians.
Reports of Facebook banning the use of ‘khokhol’ and its derivatives first emerged in 2015, triggering debate over its application.
The term traditionally described the Ukrainian Cossack style of haircut but has sometimes taken on derogatory connotations when used by Russian speakers.
“My name is being blocked. Neither me, my friends or acquaintances can use Facebook and Instagram normally,” Khokhlov was quoted as saying regarding his case.
“A lot of people I know called me and said that any mention of my name is blocked. And they get banned for a week. We first noticed this at the end of spring.”
Khokhlov, who manages Russian Premier League team Rotor Volgograd, is said to be seeking compensation for ‘moral damages’ from the social media company and wants changes to their systems.
As a prominent football figure in his homeland, Khokhlov’s name features frequently in interviews, news reports and among comments from fans, which he says all risk being blocked.
“The claim contains a requirement to prohibit the defendant, that is, the American company [Facebook], from performing certain actions against Khokhlov,” said district court official Georgi Yengibarov.
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Krasnodar-born Khokhlov made 53 appearances for Russia during his playing days, scoring six times.
The former midfielder’s club career took in spells at Moscow clubs CSKA, Dynamo, and Lokomotiv, as well as stints in the Netherlands with PSV Eindhoven and at Real Sociedad in Spain.
Khokhlov was named Dynamo Moscow manager in 2017, serving until he was sacked in 2019.
He was appointed head coach at Rotor in May of this year, ahead of the club’s second season back in the Russian Premier League after a 16-year absence.