Russia to slow Twitter access after dispute over protests

Russia says it will slow users’ access to Twitter, accusing it of failing to take down pornographic and other banned content, escalating a growing push against foreign social networks.

Authorities will slow access to Twitter on all mobile devices and on half of desktop computers because the company failed to remove content related to teenage suicide attempts, pornography and drug use, internet watchdog Roskomnadzor said in a statement on Wednesday, local time. It said access could be blocked altogether if Twitter doesn’t remove the banned content.

President Vladimir Putin has slammed US social media giants and questioned whether they acted in the public interest.Credit:Glenn Hunt

The move came a day after the regulator announced lawsuits against Twitter and four other social media companies for not deleting posts about last month’s nationwide protests over the jailing of opposition leader Alexei Navalny.

President Vladimir Putin slammed US social media giants during his speech at the World Economic Forum in January, calling them monopolies and questioning whether they act in the public interest.

“This is so far the softest measure they could have taken to limit access to western social media,” said Ilya Klishin, a founder of media consultant KFConsulting.

“The target audience is old guys in power, who aren’t Twitter users anyways. I don’t think this will change young people’s habits, and there are serious questions if they have the technical capacity to completely block access to Twitter.”

More restrictions

Twitter couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.

Twitter has come under increasing pressure from regulators in some countries. Banned in China, the network was among several fined in Turkey late last year in a move activists called an attempt to stifle dissent.

Russia’s regulator said other services could also be targeted for throttling if they continue to defy local laws, Interfax reported. Legislators in parliament on Wednesday said Facebook could be restricted next.

“This isn’t an empty threat. Twitter and the other social networks that don’t fulfil the requirements of the law should get ready for serious consequences, including closure,” said Senator Vladimir Dzhabarov, according to RIA Novosti.

On Tuesday, regulators filed court cases against Twitter, Google, Facebook, TikTok and Telegram for allegedly failing to delete posts that urged minors to attend the protests, according to Interfax.

Russia sought to block Telegram several years ago over failure to share encryption information but was unable to make the ban work technically and ultimately backed down. But under a 2019 law, authorities have since upgraded systems they say would allow Russia to completely cut itself off from the internet if needed.

Twitter service in Moscow didn’t immediately appear to have been disrupted on Wednesday, although state-run RIA Novosti said its staff experienced some slowness.


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