Twitter is one of the largest social media platforms in Russia and it has been used by opposition figures, like Alexei Navalny (article “The imprisonment of Alexei Navalny deconstructed). The platform was used to widen the protests for his imprisonment. That is why, due to related posts that urged young people to join the protest, Russia threatened to sue Twitter, TikTok, Facebook and other sites.
On Wednesday 10/3/21 Russia proceeded to slow down the speed of Twitter, using the laws signed in 2019 that give it the right to restrict access to US social media sites. This action was taken because the platform failed to delete what was described by the country’s media watchdog as “harmful content”( 3,000 posts since 2017 relating to suicide, drugs and pornography). The Roskomnadzor* claimed that it had sent Twitter 28,000 requests to delete the information and that the action was taken to protect Russian citizens. Twitter said it was "deeply concerned by increased attempts to block and throttle online public conversation" and does not support "any unlawful behaviour".
Vladim Subbotin, deputy head of the Roskomnadzor media watchdog*, released a statement that reads "Starting today, Roskomnadzor has taken measures of centralized response, namely, slowing down the speed of the service. The slowdown will be implemented for 100% of mobile traffic and 50% of fixed traffic. The mechanism involves slowing down the transfer of photo and video content, without limiting transmission text messages. This way, users will be able to exchange messages without hindrance,". Hence, The watchdog claimed it only reduced the speed of Twitter on all mobile phones and half of desktop devices in Russia. However, there were reports that the general internet connection was slowed down.
Dimitry Peskov, Kremlin spokesman, stated that there was "no desire to block anything, but it is quite reasonable to take measures to force these companies to comply with our laws". The government’s measure aimed to protect Russians from resources that broke the law. His exact statement reads; "Of course, Russians should be able to have access to all the world's resources. But, in addition to this, the regulatory function is to ensure those resources act in the legal field and fulfill the legal requirements of Russia and Russian departments on the territory of the Russian Federation. Therefore, no one has any desire to block anything, but it is quite reasonable to take measures in order to force these companies to comply with our laws,"
Turkey, Egypt, Cuba and the UAE have also taken similar measures in the past during protests or political crises. While in Iran, North Korea and China the service is completely blocked.
*Roskomnadzor: Federal Service for Supervision of Communications, Information Technology and Mass Media
*Watchdog: an organization whose job is to make sure that companies behave legally and provide good services