Russia threatens to block Twitter as content dispute escalates

Ilya Arkhipov

Russia threatened to fully block Twitter Inc. within a month if it doesn’t delete content flagged by the government’s internet watchdog, escalating a conflict that has slowed access to the network since last week.

Twitter hasn’t responded to the Russian regulator’s repeated requests to remove illegal content, Roskomnadzor’s press service said in an emailed comment.

The threats come after Russia last week made content on Twitter slower to load because the company allegedly refused to take down posts related to drug use, pornography and other banned topics. The government is ratcheting up pressure on social media as it seeks to tighten control over content it deems objectionable, including criticism of the authorities.

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Earlier this month, the government filed lawsuits against several social media companies, including Twitter, due to posts that promoted protests over the jailing of opposition leader Alexey Navalny earlier this year.

President Vladimir Putin has slammed U.S. social media giants, calling them monopolies and questioning whether they act in the public interest. Networks like Twitter, YouTube and Facebook Inc. have been used to show footage of protests against the government and organize events, angering local authorities.

Twitter doesn’t tolerate child exploitation or drug sales on its platform, a company spokesperson said after the slowdown was announced, adding that Twitter is “deeply concerned by increased attempts to block and throttle online public conversation.”