RUSSIA: On Wednesday, the Russian internet regulator Rokomnadzor announced measures against Twitter for failing to remove banned content. The regulator stated that the steps will disrupt Twitter’s speed within the country to protect their citizens and to ensure that the social network complies with the Russian legislation.
In a statement, Roskomnadzor justified the new regulations by saying , “From 2017 up to the present time, Twitter did not remove content that incites minors to commit suicide, contains child pornography, as well as information about the use of narcotic drugs.” Twitter failed to delete more than 2000 such posts during the period despite the regulator sending the social network more than 28,000 initial and repeat requests. Roskomnadzor further said that although they have not blocked Twitter yet, they have enough legal grounds to do so.
According to the reports, the regulations against Twitter might also be politically motivated. In recent years social networks like Twitter and Facebook, and video hosting platforms like TikTok, Youtube have amplified the voices of Kremlin critics and their calls for protests.
Russian authorities have repeatedly raised allegations that foreign platforms, particularly Twitter, Facebook, and Twitter “discriminate” official Russian media under the pretext of content moderation.
Back in June 2020, Twitter suspended around 1000 Russian accounts for alleged state-backed propaganda. To avenge this stance, in late 2020 a bill was passed against censorship of Russian media and other “illegitimate” restrictions on the internet.
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Russian Laws vs. Tech Goliaths
In the past years, the authorities have taken multiple technical measures to be in a capacity to block social networks.
In 2018, Roskomnadzor in his attempt to block instant messenger Telegram, got in a row with Pavel Durov, the founder of Telegram, as the latter had refused to provide access to its encryption keys to the Russian secret service FSB. However, the regulator eventually surrendered in June last year, announcing the end of the restrictions on access to Telegram. This failure has not prevented the authorities in their attempt to potentially cut off the country from the rest of the World Wide Web.
According to some Russian pundits and Kremlin insiders, the regulator’s decision to pull down Twitter is a sign to thwart internet freedom by taming social networks and seize control of the country’s online information flow.