Twitter refuses to remove illegal content Russia slashes speed penalty

Russian authorities announced Wednesday (March 10) that the social media platform Twitter has refused to remove “illegal” content. In retaliation, the Russian public’s access to Twitter will be slowed down from the same day, and if Twitter still does not cooperate, it may be completely blocked in Russia.

AFP and Reuters reported that Moscow’s conflict with U.S. social media giants such as Twitter and Facebook has heated up in recent months. Russian authorities accused the platforms weeks ago of failing to remove illegal posts that were detrimental to minors, and Wednesday’s action further intensified the standoff.

The Russian Federal Service for Monitoring Communications, Technology Information and Mass Media (Roskomnandzor) said in a statement Wednesday that it has ignored more than 28,000 requests to Twitter since 2017 to remove links to child pornography, information on drug use and encouragement of suicide among minors.

Roskomnadzor said that as of that day there were still more than 3,000 posts on Twitter with content that violated Russian law. The decision to restrict the Twitter service was made to “protect Russian citizens” and to make the social media comply with Russian law.

Roskomnadzor said the slowdown would affect all mobile device users in Russia and 50 percent of desktop computer users. If Twitter continues to ignore Russian law, it could face further restrictions, including being banned altogether.

Interfax reported Tuesday, citing a Moscow court, that Twitter and four other social media platforms have been sued for allegedly failing to remove posts encouraging children to participate in illegal demonstrations. This reflects the pressure Twitter has already faced in Russia.

CNA reports that Russia has traditionally been less strict than the Chinese Communist Party in controlling the Internet, but this year (2021) saw a wave of nationwide protests over the arrest and imprisonment of opposition leader Alexei Navalny. Moscow has signaled it will take a tougher stance on online speech as political tensions rise at Home.