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Twitter warned it faces Russia block

By REN QI in Moscow | China Daily | Updated: 2021-03-18 07:54
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Small toy figures are seen in front of Twitter logo and Russian flag colours in this illustration picture taken March 15, 2021. [Photo/Agencies]

Russia's media watchdog warned on Tuesday that it will block Twitter within a month if the social network fails to delete prohibited content.

Vadim Subbotin, deputy head of Russia's state communications watchdog Roskomnadzor, issued the warning a week after the country began slowing down the speeds at which uses can access the US-based microblogging site. The watchdog had cited Twitter's failure to act on complaints over illegal content.

The agency's firmer stance come amid tensions with Western social media platforms over what Moscow calls censorship aimed against its state-affiliated accounts.

"We've taken a month to watch Twitter's reaction on the issue of removing prohibited information. Appropriate decisions will be made depending on the social network administration's actions," the Tass news agency quoted Subbotin as saying.

So far, Roskomnadzor "hasn't recorded any concrete steps taken by Twitter to remove the prohibited content", Subbotin said. He added that "there's still time to negotiate".

"If Twitter does not comply with the requirements of Roskomnadzor, the requirements of Russian legislation, respectively, we will consider an option to completely block the service on the territory of Russia."

Subbotin noted that, if the company fulfills all the requirements, the measures against it will be lifted.

Raising concerns

Twitter said last week, in response to Russia's speed restrictions on the site, that it was worried about the impact on free speech, and denied that it allowed its platform to be used to promote illegal behavior as claimed by Russian authorities.

The watchdog said the banned content at the center of the conflict involves more than 3,000 posts containing information about suicide, child pornography and drugs that have apparently remained online since 2017. Polls indicate a mere 3 percent of Russians use Twitter.

The platform was already under pressure in Russia after it was named this month as one of five social media platforms being sued for allegedly failing to delete posts urging children to take part in illegal anti-Kremlin protests.

Russia's foreign ministry on Saturday accused the United States of using IT opportunities to engage in unfair competition and social media platforms of arbitrarily censoring content.

Roskomnadzor has the capabilities to completely block Twitter should the need arise, Subbotin said.

Twitter did not immediately respond to the warning.

The Kremlin has said it supports Roskomnadzor's efforts to force foreign platforms to comply with Russian law.

President Vladimir Putin earlier raised the fines that can be levied against social media operators accused of "discriminating" against Russian media.

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