Russia is contemplating a ban on internet-based platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and YouTube over arbitrary censorship exercised by the social media behemoths. Russian legislators this week moved a step closer in this direction with the passage of draft legislation that would empower the regulators to block social networking and content-sharing websites if they are found randomly censoring content posted by Russian citizens.
A statement was released by the Russian parliament, stating that the authorities would have the power to block internet-based platforms upon finding them engaging in limiting information based on language as well as nationality.
The lower house of the Russian parliament, State Duma, also added that the websites that are found to be discriminating against Russian media’s content might also face a ban. The decision comes in the wake of complaints filed by many Russian media organisations this year, stating that their accounts were being censored by Facebook, YouTube and Twitter, all of which are based out of the United States.
Social Media platforms introduced labels to identify suspicious content and media outlets affiliated to govts
It is noteworthy to mention that these social media tech-giants had introduced labels to identify media outlets affiliated to their respective governments. This was done ahead of the US Presidential elections in November 2020. However, the social media platforms’ random labelling of content and media houses had stirred a massive outrage, with many accusing the tech giants of exhibiting bias and favouritism.
Following the passage of the draft legislation in the lower house, it would be presented in the upper house, where it would need to be passed. Once it passes through the upper house and Rusian President Vladimir Putin signs it, the bill would effectively turn into a law.
Of late, social media websites have been censoring and publishing content as per their whims and fancies. Last week, Kremlin levied a fine on Google because the search engine giant did not pull down online content that was banned under Russian law. In February this year, a court in Moscow fined Twitter and Facebook for not abiding by a Russian law requiring them to store Russian citizens’ user data inside the country.
Interference by Social media platforms in India’s digital space
In India, too, social media platforms have indulged in randomly labelling and limiting the content that goes on their websites. Recently, Twitter inexplicably censored a tweet posted by Amit Malviya, the IT cell head of the ruling party of India.
The backstory to this is rather interesting. Rahul Gandhi, the leader of Congress party had shared an image with an insinuation that the police was beating up an old farmer. While Khalistani elements have taken over the farmer protests, the opposition parties are trying to prove that the protest is still spearheaded by farmers. That apart, in this exact moment where this picture was captured, the old farmer was not being beaten up by the police.
Twitter, instead of flagging the original picture with misleading claims, flagged a ‘fact-check’ video by Amit Malviya and added the label that read ‘manipulated media’.