Russian authorities said Tuesday they would block Twitter in a month if it doesn’t take steps to remove banned content, a move that escalates the Russian government’s drawn-out standoff with social media platforms that have played a major role in amplifying dissent in Russia.
Russia’s state communications watchdog, Roskomnadzor, last week announced it was slowing down the speed of uploading photos and videos to Twitter over its alleged failure to remove content encouraging suicide among children and information about drugs and child pornography.
The agency said Twitter has failed to remove more than 3,000 posts with banned content, including more than 2,500 posts encouraging suicide among minors. The platform responded by emphasizing its policy of zero tolerance for child sexual exploitation, promotion of suicide and drug sales.
On Tuesday, deputy chief of Roskomnadzor Vadim Subbotin argued that Twitter still wasn’t complying with the demands of the Russian authorities.
“Twitter doesn’t react to our requests appropriately, and if things go on like this, then in a month it will be blocked, on an out-of-court basis,” Subbotin told the Interfax news agency, adding that Roskomnadzor at this point “is not registering specific steps by Twitter to remove prohibited content.”
Twitter did not respond immediately to an email request for comment.
Authorities have criticized social media platforms that have been used to bring tens of thousands of people into the streets across Russia this year to demand the release of jailed Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny. The wave of demonstrations was the largest in years and posed a major challenge to the Kremlin.
The government has repeatedly aired threats to block the two social media giants, but stopped short of outright bans even though the law allows it, 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 user data in Russia.
However, some experts have said that the authorities might be seriously considering the possibility of bans this time around.