Russia Threatens To 'Temporarily' Block Twitter
March 17, 2021
Russia's state communications watchdog, Roskomnadzor, has threatened
to block Twitter in a month's time if the social-media network
doesn't begin removing banned content.
Roskomnadzor last week announced a slowing down, or throttling, of
Twitter's speed across the country for its "failure" to remove what
it said was banned content that encouraged suicide among children
and information about drugs and child pornography.
On March 16, Roskomnadzor's deputy head, Vadim Subbotin, said the
company still wasn't complying with the demands of the Russian
"Twitter doesn't react to our requests appropriately, and if things
go on like this, then in a month it will be blocked, on an
out-of-court basis," Subbotin was quoted by the Interfax news agency
Roskomnadzor said on March 10 that the measure was meant "to protect
Russian citizens from the influence of illegal content" and
threatened to fully block the U.S. social network if it did not act.
The action came amid Russian efforts to tighten control on social
media and a clampdown on platforms that have been used to organize
protests in support of jailed opposition leader Aleksei Navalny.
Last month, a law came into force that states social networks must
themselves find and delete content banned by Russian law. If a
social network is unable to determine if content contains banned
materials, it must send the content to Roskomnadzor for an
The agency had said that, as of March 10, Twitter had 3,168 posts
with banned content on its site, including more than 2,500 posts
encouraging suicide among minors. It also referred to content on
illegal drugs and pornography.
Subbotin said that the Russian regulator at this point "is not
registering specific steps by Twitter to remove prohibited content."
Aleksei Pushkov, chairman of the Information Policy Committee of the
Federation Council, Russia's upper chamber of parliament, said on
March 16 that the authorities should consider completely blocking
Twitter, but on a temporary basis.
"My personal position as the head of the Committee on Informational
policy is that we can block Twitter completely, but for a limited
period -- for a month," Pushkov was quoted as saying by TASS.
"By doing so we give them a warning signal that this is not just
idle talk," Pushkov said.
Twitter did not respond immediately to an e-mail request for
Roskomnadzor's Subbotin has warned that "it is possible" similar
measures could be imposed against other social networks such as
Facebook in the future if they do not follow Russian regulations.
Moscow has been trying to curb social media in recent years amid
increasing protests among citizens, especially younger Russians, and
social media's role in amplifying dissent.
Officials in January accused foreign Internet companies of
interfering in Russia's domestic affairs over their failure to take
down calls to participate in rallies in support of Navalny.
The government has previously moved to tighten control of social
media by requiring online services to store the personal data of
Russian users on servers in Russia. Facebook and Twitter have been
fined for failing to comply with the law.
Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova late last year accused
Facebook and Twitter of "open censorship" after they blocked Russian
accounts and content and after Twitter labeled government and
state-affiliated media accounts.
Late last month Roskomnadzor demanded Twitter explain why it removed
100 accounts linked to Russia.
Twitter said in response that the accounts "amplified narratives
that were aligned with the Russian government, focused on
undermining faith in the NATO alliance and its stability," and
targeted the United States and the European Union.
In 2014, authorities adopted a law requiring online services to
store the personal data of Russian users on servers in Russia and
have since tried to make Facebook and Twitter comply with it.
Both social-media giants have been repeatedly fined, first small
amounts of around $50 and last year the equivalent of $63,000 each,
for not complying.