Russia has threatened to slow down the loading speed of Twitter if the company does not comply with orders to censor content. Considering the timing, the government could be trying to slow down the recent protests in the country.
In recent weeks, the Russian government has accused Twitter and other platforms of failing to remove content encouraging “children” to take part in anti-government protests. The protests were sparked by the arrest of Alexei Navalny, a critic of the government.
The country’s communications regulator, Roskomnadzor, said that, as of Wednesday, there were more than 3,000 tweets containing illegal content, and Twitter has refused to remove them for years.
“The slowing down will be applied to 100% of mobile devices and on 50% of non-mobile devices,” the regulator said.
“If (Twitter) continues to ignore the requirements of the law, the enforcement measures will be continued… (right up to blocking it).”
Apparently, the move will not affect text, only video and images.
Traditionally, despite its lack of democracy, Russia has chosen not to restrict online content, the approach taken by neighboring China. However, the recent protests has made the government to start taking tougher measures on online speech.
Last December, the lower house of parliament passed tougher regulations on social media platforms, imposing bigger fines on platforms that refuse to remove illegal content and the restriction of platforms that are biased against the state-run Russian media.
Activists believe the move to slow down Twitter is directly related to the anti-government protests.
“Of course the main motive is the increase in street protest action,” said Sarkis Darbinyan of the internet freedom advocacy group Roskomsvoboda.
“It’s 10 years since the Arab spring this year… they’ve understood the internet is a driving force. Any desire to control the Russian internet is connected to the desire to control the information space,” Darbinyan added.