On March 16, Vadim Subbotin, deputy head of Russia’s media regulator Roskomnadzor, said that the Russian officials might soon announce a ban on micro-blogging site Twitter if it fails to comply with the orders to remove unlawful posts including child pornography, calls for suicide and drug usage. He said, “Twitter does not adequately respond to our requests – if things go on as they have been – then in a month, it will be blocked without needing a court order.”
Roskomnadzor also urged the tech giant to comply with the orders to avoid a ban. On March 10, the Russian authorities started to slow down the speed of traffic on Twitter as it failed to remove the content as per the orders given by the Russian government. The watchdog then alleged that the company “does not remove content that incites minors to commit suicide, contains child pornography or information about the use of drugs.”
In Russia, the media regulator, Roskomnadzor, announced on Wednesday that it was slowing down online access to the social media giant Twitter, accusing the social media company of failing to remove around three thousands posts relating to objectionable content.— Prasar Bharati News Services पी.बी.एन.एस. (@PBNS_India) March 10, 2021
In a statement issued on VK, Roskomnadzor said, “The slowdown applies to the delivery of audio, video content and graphics. Social network text messages are delivered without restrictions.”
While talking to Interfax, Subbotin said that Twitter has not responded to the requests of Russian authorities properly. “If things go the same way, it will be blocked out of court in a month,” he added. Subbotin hinted that the authorities would ban Twitter without waiting for a court order. “Our colleagues still have some time to engage in negotiations. We’ll monitor the situation for a month and make our decision within this period of time,” he said.
As per the reports, Russian Authorities have filed over 28,000 requests for the posts to be taken down. However, 3,168 pieces of content containing prohibited information remained on the website. Out of these posts, over 2,500 were calls for children to kill themselves and 450 involved child pornography. In its statement, Roskomnadzor said, “As of March 11, 2021, more than 3.1 thousand materials with prohibited information remains not deleted. There was no response to the request sent by Roskomnadzor to Twitter to remove prohibited materials with child pornography, narcotic and suicidal content.”
Roskomnadzor further added if the company continue to ignore the orders, Russian Authorities will continue to take measures against the tech giant to the point of blocking the social media network altogether.
Reaction from Twitter
In its statement last week, Twitter said that they are aware of the reports that Twitter was intentionally slowed down “broadly and indiscriminately in Russia due to apparent content removal concerns.” It further added that they are deeply concerned by the “increased attempts to block and throttle online public conversation.”
Warning by Russian President Vladimir Putin
Earlier in March, Vladimir Putin, President of Russia, had warned the social media sites against the unacceptable content. He said that these sites are being used to promote completely unacceptable content: for the distribution of child pornography, prostitution, for driving minors to suicide. He said the Russian authorities would take tough action against those who are using the internet to “try to take advantage of children in cold blood [to] achieve their own selfish, ‘ferret’ goals.”
According to Roskomnadzor, they have “noticed any practical steps taken by Twitter to remove banned content.”
Twitter had received criticism for its biased attitude
In the past, Twitter has been grilled several times by governments worldwide for its biased attitude towards removing content. In India, the ministers and government departments have slowly started moving to other platforms like Koo. The tech giant has failed to comply with content removal orders by the Indian government. The government also introduced new guidelines to put a curb on social media platforms from spreading misinformation. Twitter was also heavily criticized for blocking then-sitting President of the United States, Donald Trump, after the Capitol Hill incident in January 2021.
Interestingly, Twitter believes that child pornography “does not violate their policies.” In January 2021, Twitter was sued by a teenager after a tech giant allowed video of his abuse. In reply to the take down request by the victim, the company said, “Thanks for reaching out. We’ve reviewed the content, and didn’t find a violation of our policies, so no action will be taken at this time.”