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Russia throttles Twitter’s internet speeds for 50 per cent of users

Russia throttles Twitter’s internet speeds for 50 per cent of users as it accuses Silicon Valley giant of failing to remove thousands of posts relating to suicide, drugs and child pornography

  • Watchdog said disruption of Twitter service was to ‘protect Russian citizens’
  • Cuts speeds for pictures and video for all mobile users and half of desktop users 
  • Comes amid Kremlin anger at support for Alexei Navalny spreading on US sites 

Russia today throttled Twitter‘s internet speeds as it accused the Silicon Valley giant of failing to remove thousands of posts relating to suicide, drugs and child pornography.

Roskomnadzor, Moscow’s media watchdog, said the disruption was intended to ‘protect Russian citizens’ after the platform failed to comply with thousands of requests to delete the illegal content. 

The watchdog said the disruption would amount to a ‘slowdown in service speed’ for all mobile users and half of desktop users, later adding that it would only affect photo and video content. 

The Kremlin has been cracking down on US tech giants, including Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, in recent months for hosting content which supports jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny

Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a meeting inside the Kremlin yesterday. In January he warned against the increasing influence of large tech companies, saying they were ‘competing’ with sovereign states

Twitter headquarters in San Francisco, California. Russia accused the firm of failing to remove thousands of posts relating to child pornography, suicide and drugs

Twitter headquarters in San Francisco, California. Russia accused the firm of failing to remove thousands of posts relating to child pornography, suicide and drugs

Roskomnadzor did not reference any posts relating to the massive protests over Navalny’s detention that angered officials earlier this year.  

Instead, it objected to 3,168 posts relating to ‘illegal content’ which it said Twitter had not taken down despite warnings. 

It comes after Kremlin officials accused foreign internet companies of interfering in Russia’s domestic affairs over their failure to take down calls to participate in rallies in support of Navalny.

In January, President Vladimir Putin warned against the increasing influence of large tech companies, saying they were ‘competing’ with sovereign states.

The watchdog today warned that if Twitter ignored Russian law it could face further restrictions, including a complete ban.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov insisted Russia had ‘no desire to block anything’ and said the measures forcing companies to comply with Russian laws were ‘quite reasonable’.

According to tech monitoring website Downdetector there was a spike in disruptions reported by Russian Twitter users on Wednesday morning.

Twitter did not immediately respond to AFP’s request for comment. 

Lawmakers on Wednesday welcomed the regulator’s decision, warning that other social networks may be next.

‘I am sure Twitter will lose big money,’ said Anton Gorelkin, a lawmaker on a parliamentary telecommunications committee.

CEO of Twitter Jack Dorsey testifies before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington in January

CEO of Twitter Jack Dorsey testifies before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington in January

He told the Interfax news agency that Facebook could be the ‘next candidate’ for restrictions.

Another lawmaker Alexander Bashkin said the decision would be ‘sobering’ for YouTube and other platforms.

Moscow also recently raised concerns about the Chinese video sharing app TikTok that was flooded with calls to demonstrate in support of Navalny in January.

Russia’s government has spent years tightening its control over the internet in the name of fighting extremism, terrorism and protecting children.

Officials have repeatedly fined Google for failing to remove content and last year fined Twitter and Facebook for refusing to store the personal data of Russian citizens on local servers.

A demonstrator holds a picture of Russian jailed pposition leader Alexei Navalny during a protest demanding freedom for political prisoners, attended by Belarus opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya and organized by a Belorussian cultural association, in Lisbon, Saturday, March 6

A demonstrator holds a picture of Russian jailed pposition leader Alexei Navalny during a protest demanding freedom for political prisoners, attended by Belarus opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya and organized by a Belorussian cultural association, in Lisbon, Saturday, March 6

A 2019 law proposes a ‘sovereign internet’ aimed at isolating the country online, a move activists fear will tighten government control of cyberspace and stifle free speech.

Moscow has already banned a number of websites that refused to cooperate with authorities, such as video platform Dailymotion and professional networking website LinkedIn.

Lawmakers also attempted to block the Telegram encrypted messaging service but lifted the ban because it was not being fully enforced. 

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