Russia threatens to block Twitter in a month

Russia threatens to block Twitter in a month

MOSCOW – Russian authorities said on Tuesday they would block Twitter in a month’s time if it does not take action to remove banned content, a move that escalates the Russian government’s ongoing standoff with social media platforms that have played a major role in amplifying dissent. in Russia.
Russian state communications watchdog Roskomnadzor announced last week that it was slowing down the speed of uploading photos and videos to Twitter due to its alleged failure to remove content promoting suicide among children and information on drugs and child pornography.

The agency said Twitter had failed to remove more than 3,000 posts with banned content, including more than 2,500 posts promoting underage suicide. The platform responded by emphasizing its zero tolerance policy for the sexual exploitation of children, the promotion of suicide and the sale of drugs.

On Tuesday, Roskomnadzor Deputy Chief Vadim Subbotin argued that Twitter was still not complying with Russian authorities’ demands.

“Twitter is not responding appropriately to our requests, and if things continue like this, then in a month it will be blocked, amicably,” Subbotin told the Interfax news agency. He added that at this stage, Roskomnadzor “is not registering specific measures by Twitter to remove banned content”.

Twitter did not immediately respond to an email request for comment.

Authorities have criticized social media platforms that have been used to bring tens of thousands of people to the streets across Russia this year to demand the release of jailed Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny. The wave of protests was the largest in years and posed a major challenge to the Kremlin.

Authorities alleged that social media platforms had failed to suppress calls for children to join the protests. Russian President Vladimir Putin urged the police to do more to monitor social platforms and track down those who “drag children into illegal and unauthorized street actions”.

The government’s efforts to tighten control of the internet and social media date back to 2012, when a law allowing authorities to blacklist and block certain online content was passed. Since then, a growing number of restrictions targeting messaging apps, websites and social media platforms have been introduced.

In 2014, authorities passed a law requiring online services to store the personal data of Russian users on servers in Russia and have since tried to get Facebook and Twitter to comply. Both companies have been fined several times, initially small amounts of around $ 50 and last year the equivalent of $ 63,000 each, for failing to comply.

The government has repeatedly issued threats to block the two social media giants, but halted ahead of outright bans even if the law allows, likely fearing the move would spark too much public outrage. Only the social network LinkedIn, which was not very popular in Russia, was banned by the authorities for failing to store user data in Russia.

However, some experts said authorities may seriously consider the possibility of a ban this time around.

Subbotin said on Tuesday that Roskomnadzor had the “technical capabilities” to block Twitter, and that the agency does not rule out slowing down or blocking other online platforms if they “break Russian laws and do not comply. not to the demands of Roskomnadzor ”.

In 2018, Roskomnadzor failed to restrict access to the popular Telegram messaging app due to its refusal to hand over the encryption keys used to scramble messages. Last year, the watchdog officially withdrew requests to block Telegram, which has been widely used despite the ban, including by government institutions.


Associated Press editors Vladimir Isachenkov in Moscow and Kelvin Chan in London contributed to this report.


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