Russia regulator slows down Twitter access over banned content row

Russia is slowing down the speed of Twitter in retaliation for what it described as a failure to remove banned content, according to a press release on Wednesday.

Russia’s Roskomnadzor (Federal Service for Supervision of Communications, Information Technology, and Mass Media) referred to what it said was illegal content on Twitter containing child pornography, information about drug abuse, and calls for minors to commit suicide. According to the regulator,  as of March 11, 2021, more than 3,100 materials with prohibited information remained on Twitter, and there was no response to their request for removal. The slowdown applies to the delivery of audio, video content, and graphics. Text messages will be delivered without restrictions.

According to Article 13.41 of the Russian Code of Administrative Offenses, a web platform that fails to restrict access to forbidden content upon receiving the notice from Roskomnadzor may be fined 800,000 to 4 million rubles ($1 = 74.0525 roubles), and the fine grows to 10% of the company’s annual revenue in the event of a repeat offense. Fines are higher for the failure to remove extremist, suicidal, and pornographic content; they reach 8 million rubles and range from 10% to 20% of the company’s annual revenue in the event of a repeat offense.

Twitter responded in a statement saying, “We remain committed to advocating for the Open Internet around the world and are deeply concerned by increased attempts to block and throttle online public conversation,” 

This decision comes in a series of developments as the country gradually introduces tougher internet laws, requiring search engines to delete some search results, messaging services to share encryption keys with security services among others. Roskomnadzor is also suing five social media platforms namely Twitter, Google, Facebook, Tiktok, and Telegram, for allegedly failing to delete posts urging children to participate in illegal protests linked to opposition leader Navalny.