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Twitter slows down in Russia until mid-May; no blocks yet

MOSCOW (AP) – Russian authorities announced on Monday that they will continue to slow down Twitter until mid-May, but will not block the social media platform as it has begun to remove banned content faster.

The statement somewhat delays the recent controversy between the Russian government’s platform, which has played a role in fueling dissent in Russia.

Russia’s state-run Roskomnadzor last month accused Twitter of promoting child suicide content, as well as information about drugs and child pornography. The agency announced on March 10 that it was slowing down the platform to upload photos, videos, and threatened to block it within a month if it continued to fail.

In response to the accusations, Twitter reiterated its policy of zero tolerance for child sexual exploitation, suicide and drug trafficking.

Roskomnadzor said in a statement on Monday that it had decided not to block the social media platform. “Taking into account for the first time Twitter’s decision to change the principles and speed of its own moderate service in Russia, some of the content is banned.”

The agency said Twitter had deleted 1,900 of the 3,100 posts that contained child pornography, drug information, and suicides. According to “Roskomnadzor”, the platform has increased the speed of deleting prohibited content. It currently takes 81 hours. Still, Russian law requires that social media be removed from blocked content within 24 hours of being notified.

Due to these developments, Roskomnadzor will continue to slow down Twitter until May 15, giving it “extra time to remove all prohibited content … to fully comply with Russian law.”

Russian authorities have criticized social media platforms for taking tens of thousands of people to the streets in January earlier this year to demand the release of jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny, one of President Vladimir Putin’s most prominent critics. 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 media platforms and track down those who engage children in “illegal, unauthorized street activities.”

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. Russia has since imposed restrictions on messaging apps, websites and social media platforms.

The government has repeatedly threatened to block Facebook and Twitter, but has stopped direct bans. Probably because he fears that this move will cause too much 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.

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