Russia Extends Punitive Twitter Slowdown Into May

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Russia extends punitive slowdown of Twitter services in country into next month as it tries to force social media company to delete ‘illegal’ posts

Russia has said it plans to extend a punitive slowdown of Twitter until mid-May as it works with the social media company to ensure it deletes content deemed illegal.

Since March the Russian government has used deep-packet inspection (DPI) technology to slow down users’ access to Twitter.

It is the country’s first use of the technology, which is intended to give it a stronger hand in negotiations with  foreign online platforms.

While Russia stops short of banning many foreign online services entirely, as is the case in China, the country has imposed selective bans on some companies in the past.

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Image credit: St Basil’s Cathedral


But some of its attempts to do in the past so have had unintended consequences, as when it attempted to ban Telegram for two years beginning in 2018.

The move blocked more than 16 million unrelated sites while Telegram increased its user base in Russia from 10 million to 30 million.

Last month’s Twitter slowdown has also had some knock-on effects, with the websites of the Kremlin, Russia’s parliament and several government agencies going offline, including that of the censor itself, Roskomnadzor.

Russia has threatened to ban Twitter if it does not delete thousands of posts dating back to 2017 that it said encourage illegal activities, including attending anti-government protests.

The censor on Monday said Twitter had speeded up its deletion of the posts, and was removing illegal content within 81 hours of receiving a request, which falls short of the 24 hours demanded in law.

‘Productive discussion’

Roskomnadzor said talks between Twitter and Russian authorities on 1 April had resulted in an agreement to give the company more time to comply before banning it.

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

It added that it had “reiterated that we do not allow the use of Twitter for any unlawful behaviour or to further illegal activities”.

The company has condemned state-backed attempts to interfere in social media, saying they have a detrimental effect on free speech.

Twitter and other social media companies have faced increased pressure from governments around the world as they seek to impose more restrictions on the largely unregulated platforms.