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Russia extends Twitter slowdown, deadline to remove content

  • 5 Apr 2021

State telecommunications watchdog Roskomnadzor gives Twitter an extra month to remove "illegal content" or face a complete blockage in Russia.

Twitter logo and a Russian flag are displayed in this illustration picture taken on March 10, 2021. ( Reuters )

Russia has extended a deadline for Twitter to remove illegal content by a month to mid-May, after the social media giant started cooperating when Russia slowed down its operations.

State telecommunications watchdog Roskomnadzor imposed slowdowns on Twitter's services in mid-March, accusing it of failing to remove content related to child pornography, drug use and calls for minors to commit suicide.

Photos and videos take longer to load for some users.

The watchdog gave Twitter a month to remove the content or face a complete blockage in Russia.

The move raised concerns among Kremlin critics who fear the clampdown on Twitter and other social media is aimed at silencing opposition voices.

READ MORE: Russia threatens to block Twitter unless it removes ‘banned content’

Twitter slowdown

Roskomnadzor said in a statement on Monday that after the slowdown Twitter had deleted nearly 2,000 posts containing illegal content and was moving more quickly to take content down.

It said the slowdown measures would remain in place until May 15 but that a decision had been taken not to completely block Twitter because the US company had "for the first time" changed the way its content moderation service worked in Russia.

The statement said Roskomnadzor officials had spoken by videolink with Sinead McSweeney, Twitter's vice president of public policy for the Europe, Middle East and Africa region.

"Roskomnadzor will continue to cooperate with Twitter management until the social network completely deletes all banned information in the quickest possible manner," the statement said.

Twitter confirmed the talks with Russia.

"It was a productive discussion about how we can both work to ensure that reports of such illegal content are dealt with expeditiously," it said in a statement.

Roskomnadzor said that on average, Twitter was removing illegal content within 81 hours of receiving a request.

That is still much longer than the 24 hours demanded in law.

READ MORE: Russia's parliament backs law to block US social media apps

Concern over free speech

After the slowdown began last month, Twitter denounced Russia's attempts to "block and throttle online public conversation."

The media giant said at the time it had a "zero tolerance" policy regarding "child sexual exploitation" and did not promote suicide and self-harm.

Russia in recent months stepped up efforts to impose more control on online platforms including Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, with President Vladimir Putin saying large tech companies have become so influential that they are "competing" with sovereign states.

Putin's opponents say the efforts aim to stifle dissent, including by blocking efforts to organise protests in support of jailed opposition politician Alexey Navalny.

After Russia announced the move to slow down its traffic, Twitter said it was worried about the impact on free speech.

As well as Russia, major social media companies have been embroiled in an increasing number of disputes around the globe as governments seek to curb their power.

READ MORE: Google, Facebook, Twitter sued for not removing Russia protest content

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