Russia restricts Twitter services over ‘illegal’ content

Russia’s media regulator announced on Wednesday that it was slowing down online access to the social media giant Twitter in order to “protect Russian citizens.”

It said that the slowdown was the first step, but that it would consider blocking the service if Twitter did not act upon the complaints.

An official from the communications watchdog told Russian news agency Ifax that the slowdown of Twitter’s services would only affect images and video, not text. They also confirmed that the measures would stay in place until the platform has removed all the content under complaint.

Why is Russia restricting access to Twitter?

The Federal Service for the Supervision in the Sphere of Communications, Information Technology and Mass Media (Roskomnadzor) based its decision on Twitter’s failure to remove “illegal content.”

The regulator cited 2,569 cases of users inciting minors to commit suicide, 450 cases of child pornography and 149 cases of information on drug use.

The statement indicated that Roskomnadzor had made over 28,000 complaints to Twitter since 2017, including repeated requests to remove illegal links and publications.

Roskomnadzor said that this first measure to slow down Twitter’s service in Russia would affect all mobile devices and half of non-mobile devices.

What is the dispute between Moscow and Big Tech?

Moscow has been increasingly tightening its grip on US-based social media platforms in an attempt to make them abide by Russian laws.

In December, the Russian Parliament’s lower house passed two bills that would give greater power to the state to punish companies such as Facebook and Twitter. The bills included powers to fine the platforms for failing to delete banned content and allowing restrictions if they “discriminate” against Russian media organizations.

In August of last year, Twitter began tagging posts from certain Russian media accounts as “state-affiliated media.”

The platform has also been popular with imprisoned Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny as well as his allies.

Member of the Russian Duma and committee on information and media, Anton Gorelkin, told the Russian agency Interfax on Wednesday that Facebook would be next to be hit with restrictions if it did not deal with the illegal content on its platform.

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