MOSCOW (AP) – A Moscow court on Friday fined Twitter for not accepting calls for minors to take part in unsanctioned rallies, the latest in a series of crackdowns on a social media giant used to fuel dissent in Russia.
The court found Twitter guilty of three counts of violating regulations restricting illegal content, forcing the company to pay three fines, up to 8.9 million rubles (about $ 117,000).
The decision came two weeks after Russia’s state communications company Roskomnadzor threatened to block Twitter for 30 days if it did not take steps to remove the banned content.
Roskomnadzor last month accused Twitter of promoting child suicide, as well as failing to remove information about drugs and child pornography. The agency announced on March 10 that it is slowing down the platform for uploading photos and videos to the platform. In response, Twitter underscored its policy of promoting zero tolerance for child sexual exploitation, suicide, and drug trafficking.
Less than a week later, Vadim Subbotin, deputy head of Roskomnadzor, insisted that Twitter was still not meeting the demands of the Russian authorities, adding that “if things continue like this, it will be closed in a month.”
Earlier this year, Russian authorities criticized social media systems for taking tens of thousands of people across Russia in January to demand the release of jailed Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, a well-known critic of President Vladimir Putin. The wave of demonstrations was the biggest in recent years, a serious challenge for the Kremlin.
Authorities said social media platforms had failed to remove calls for children to join the protests. Putin called on the police to take more steps to monitor social platforms and “track down” those who “involve children in illegal, unauthorized street activities.”
Twitter did not comment on the Moscow court ruling on Friday.
Efforts by the Russian government to tighten control over the Internet and social media began in 2012, when a law was passed that allowed the authorities to list and block certain online content. Since then, restrictions on messaging apps, websites, and social media platforms have been introduced in Russia.
The government has repeatedly threatened to block Facebook and Twitter, but has lifted the direct ban, possibly fearing that the move would cause public outrage. Only the LinkedIn social network, which was not very popular in Russia, was banned by the authorities for not keeping its user data in Russia.
However, some experts say that the Russian authorities may seriously consider the possibility of sanctions this time.
Associated Press writer Kelvin Chan, based in London, contributed to this report.