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Russia fines Twitter for not taking down calls to protest

UPDATED: Fri., April 2, 2021

FILE - In this Wednesday, March 10, 2021 file photo, a mobile phone user turns on the Twitter application on his smartphone in Moscow, Russia. A court in Moscow on Friday April 2, 2021, fined Twitter for not taking down calls encouraging minors to take part in unauthorized rallies, the latest in a series of moves against the social media giant that has been used to amplify dissent in Russia. (Alexander Zemlianichenko)
FILE - In this Wednesday, March 10, 2021 file photo, a mobile phone user turns on the Twitter application on his smartphone in Moscow, Russia. A court in Moscow on Friday April 2, 2021, fined Twitter for not taking down calls encouraging minors to take part in unauthorized rallies, the latest in a series of moves against the social media giant that has been used to amplify dissent in Russia. (Alexander Zemlianichenko)
By Daria Litvinova Associated Press

MOSCOW — A court in Moscow on Friday fined Twitter for not taking down calls encouraging minors to take part in unauthorized rallies, the latest in a series of moves against the social media giant that has been used to amplify dissent in Russia.

The court found Twitter guilty on three counts of violating regulations on restricting unlawful content, ordering the company to pay three fines adding up to about $117,000.

The ruling comes two weeks after Russia’s state communications watchdog Roskomnadzor threatened to block Twitter within 30 days if it doesn’t take steps to remove banned content.

Roskomnadzor last month accused Twitter of failing to remove content encouraging suicide among children, as well as information about drugs and child pornography. The agency announced on March 10 it was slowing down the speed of uploading photos and videos to the platform because of that. Twitter in response has emphasized its policy of zero tolerance for child sexual exploitation, the promotion of suicide and drug sales.

Less than a week later, deputy chief of Roskomnadzor Vadim Subbotin argued that Twitter still wasn’t complying with the demands of the Russian authorities, adding that “if things go on like this, then in a month it will be blocked.”

Russian authorities earlier this year criticized social media platforms for bringing tens of thousands of people into the streets across Russia in January to demand the release of jailed Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, President Vladimir Putin’s most well-known critic. The wave of demonstrations was the largest in years and posed a major challenge to the Kremlin.

The authorities alleged that social media platforms failed to remove calls for children to join the protests. Putin has urged police to act more to monitor social platforms and to track down those who “draw the children into illegal and unsanctioned street actions.”

Twitter on Friday offered no comment on the Moscow court ruling.

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

The government has repeatedly aired threats to block Facebook and Twitter but stopped short of outright bans, probably fearing the move would elicit too much public outrage. Only the social network LinkedIn, which wasn’t very popular in Russia, has been banned by the authorities for the failure to store its user data in Russia.

However, some experts have said Russian authorities might be seriously considering the possibility of bans this time around.

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