Russia Gives Twitter a Month to Delete Banned Content or Get Blocked

March 16, 2021 Updated: March 16, 2021

The Russian government is threatening to block Twitter in the country unless the social media platform removes banned content within a month.

The ultimatum comes after Roskomnadzor, Russia’s federal executive authority overseeing online and media content, began slowing down the speed of Twitter last week in retaliation for an alleged failure to remove content related to drugs, child pornography, and suicide incitement aimed at minors.

“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,” Roskomnadzor deputy chief Vadim Subbotin told the state-run TASS news agency.

Subbotin added that his agency is capable of completely blocking Russian users’ access to Twitter’s services.

“We have such technical capabilities,” Subbotin claimed, reported TASS.

The banned content in question, according to TASS, involves 3,168 posts containing information on ways of committing suicide, calls for committing suicide, child pornography, and methods of making and using drugs.

Russian authorities have been tightening policies on social media since the beginning of this year. A new law took effect in January introducing fines of up to 10 percent of any company’s annual revenue for failure to block content that is deemed illegal under Russian law. Another law came into effect in February, specifically requiring major social media platforms such as Twitter to independently identify and remove illegal content.

The “illegal content,” according to a press release by Roskomnadzor in January, includes calls for youth to participate in unauthorized protests, spreading false information about police violence during protests, and exaggerating the number of protesters.

On Jan. 20, Roskomnadzor warned VKontakte, the most popular social media platform in the Russian-speaking world, and Chinese video-sharing social media service TikTok that they were obliged by law to take down content encouraging users under age of 18 to participate in illegal assemblies in support of jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny. On Jan. 27, it announced fines for VKontakte, TikTok, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube for failing to remove posts with those calls to action.

Earlier this month, Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova pushed back against criticism of Moscow’s effort to censor content on Twitter, highlighting the social media giant’s recent record of censoring an incumbent U.S. president.

“Is it the same Twitter that blocked US president [Donald Trump] a couple of months ago?” Zakharova wrote on Facebook. “They should keep a record of their own digital achievements. Otherwise, it appears that as a result of a system failure, the company starts expressing concern about activities it is engaged in.”