Russia slows down Twitter for not removing 'illegal content'

The country's communications regulator threatened to block the website completely.

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Twitter users in Russia will need to practice patience every time they visit the website. Roskomnadzor, the country's communications authority, has announced that it's slowing down Twitter's speed for failing to remove illegal content and materials with prohibited information. The decision comes shortly after Russia sued Twitter, Google, Facebook and other websites for allegedly failing to delete posts urging children to take part in illegal protests over the sentencing received by Alexei Navalny, a prominent Vladimir Putin critic. However, Roskomnadzor's announcement didn't mention those posts in its announcement.

Instead, it cited tweets containing child pornography and drug use, as well as posts inciting minors to commit suicide as its reason for the move. The regulator said it has sent Twitter over 28,000 requests to remove illegal content since 2017 and that 3,168 materials with prohibited information still remain on the platform. It put emphasis on tweets calling for minors to commit mass suicide on March 3rd, which the website allegedly didn't remove. Roskomnadzor said its decision to throttle speeds on Twitter is meant to protect Russian citizens and to force the website to comply with the country's legislation.

A Twitter spokesperson provided us with the following statement: “We are aware of reports that Twitter is being intentionally slowed down broadly and indiscriminately in Russia due to apparent content removal concerns. Let us be clear – we have a zero-tolerance policy regarding child sexual exploitation, it is against the Twitter Rules to promote, glorify or encourage suicide and self harm, and we do not allow the use of Twitter for any unlawful behaviour or to further illegal activities, including the buying and selling of drugs. We remain committed to advocating for the Open Internet around the world and deeply concerned by increased attempts to block and throttle online public conversation."

The Twitter slowdown will be implemented on all mobile devices and 50 percent of non-mobile devices, including PCs. In addition, the regulator threatened to block Twitter in the country completely if it continues to "ignore the requirements of the law."

Update, 2:15PM ET: Added a statement from Twitter.

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