Twitter fined by Russian court for not taking down calls to protest

MOSCOW – A Moscow court on Friday fined Twitter for failing to take calls asking minors to attend unauthorized rallies.

The court found Twitter guilty of three cases of violations of illegal content regulations and ordered the company to pay three fines of 8.9 million rubles (approximately $ 117,000).

The verdict comes two weeks after Russia’s state communications watchdog Roskomnadzor threatened to block Twitter within 30 days if it fails to take steps to remove banned content.

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Roskomnadzor last month accused Twitter of failing to remove content promoting child suicide, as well as information about drugs and child pornography. The agency announced on March 10 that it would slow down the uploading of photos and videos to the platform for this reason. In response, Twitter has emphasized its zero tolerance policy on child sexual exploitation, encouraging suicide, and selling drugs.

Less than a week later, Roskomnadzor’s deputy chief Vadim Subbotin argued that Twitter was still failing to meet the demands of the Russian authorities, adding that “if things continue like this, it will be blocked in a month”.

Earlier this year, Russian authorities criticized social media platforms for taking tens of thousands of people onto the streets across Russia in January to demand the release of jailed Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, the most famous critic of President Vladimir Putin. The wave of demonstrations was the largest in years and presented the Kremlin with major challenges.

Authorities said social media platforms had not removed the requirement for children to participate in the protests. Putin has urged the police to step up to monitor social platforms and track down those who “involve the children in illegal and unauthorized street actions”.

Twitter did not comment on the Moscow court ruling on Friday.

The Russian government’s efforts to tighten control over the internet and social media date back to 2012, when a law was passed allowing authorities to blacklist and block certain online content . Since then, a growing number of restrictions on messaging apps, websites, and social media platforms have been introduced in Russia.

The government has repeatedly issued threats to the blocking of Facebook and Twitter, but stopped short of the total ban, likely fearing the move would cause too much public outrage. Only the social network LinkedIn, which was not very popular in Russia, was banned by the authorities in Russia due to the lack of storage of its user data.

However, some experts said the Russian authorities could seriously consider the possibility of bans this time.

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