Russian internet watchdog decides not to block Twitter

Russian internet watchdog decides not to block Twitter
Russian internet watchdog Roskomnadzor threatened to block Twitter for hosting illegal content but has withdrawn the threat after Twitter deleted 91% of the offending material.
By bne IntelliNews May 21, 2021

Russian internet watchdog Roskomnadzor has decided not to block Twitter after the US company deleted over 90% of the material the state organ had objected to, the organ said in a press release on May 15.

Roskomnadzor said it had “positively assessed” Twitter’s efforts to comply with Russian law, which prohibits the publication material including child pornography, drug use and instructions on how to commit suicide that it accused Twitter of hosting.

After the initial warning that the service could be blocked, Roskomnadzor narrowed the bandwidth available to Twitter in Russia from March 10 after the company refused to comply.

Although that had little effect on the speed that short text messages can be transmitted, it did slow the download of pictures and video, users reported.

The watchdog had threatened to fully block the site on May 15 if Twitter had not made substantial progress in deleting the offending posts. The state censor has now decided that such a move is unnecessary and the US company has largely complied with the requests.

According to RKN, over 91% of the posts have been removed. The agency will thus return normal service to Twitter on computers, but it will continue to slow Twitter on mobile devices.

When Twitter deletes 100% of the illegal content and improves its process for removing new prohibited posts (per Russian law, they must be deleted within 24 hours), Roskomnadzor will remove all remaining restrictions on the site, the organ said.

Roskomnadzor concluded its press release by noting that it has identified illegal content on other social media platforms, such as Facebook and YouTube, and warned they too would be subject to restrictions if the content was not removed.

Roskomnadzor has even more latitude to crack down on political dissent online given that Alexey Navalny’s organisations are now considered extremist on a par with terrorism groups, and so promulgating their material is also illegal under Russian law. The agency can thus demand that social media sites remove any content related to Navalny’s movement, or face stiff fines or be blocked.

This places social media companies in a difficult position between deciding to kowtow to censorship or risk being blocked in Russia as a recent episode with YouTube displayed.