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Russia says it is slowing down Twitter to protect citizens from illegal content

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Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Alexei Nikolsky | Reuters

Russia has announced that it will impose restrictions on the social media platform Twitter for not removing illegal content from its platform.

The Federal Service for Communications, Information Technology and Mass Communication, also known as Roskomnadzor, announced on Wednesday that it was slowing the speed of Twitter.

The communications guard said he was taking measures to ensure the safety of Russian citizens and could completely block the service if Twitter does not respond appropriately.

Twitter did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment.

According to Roskomnadzor, speeds will be reduced on all mobile devices and 50% of all non-mobile devices such as computers, it said in a statement on its website.

Roskomnadzor accused Twitter of not removing content that encourages minors to commit suicide, as well as child pornography and drug use.

The regulator asked Twitter to remove links and posts more than 28,000 times between 2017 and March 2021. Other social networks have been more cooperative than Twitter to remove content that encourages minors to commit suicide.

Russia’s move to curb Twitter follows similar actions by governments in Turkey and India, which have also threatened jail sentences for platform managers.

Matt Navarra, a social media advisor, told CNBC that “the threat of restricting, blocking, or banning social media platforms appears to be a growing trend for countries notorious for tougher, less democratic regimes.”

Social media platforms are in a constant battle to keep inappropriate content off their platforms. Facebook, TikTok, YouTube, and Twitter all use a combination of software and human content moderators to monitor what’s being shared on their platforms, but none of them have really mastered content moderation.

One of the most notorious examples of recent times was the Christchurch shooter who broadcast his mass murder live on Facebook and other platforms. The video was quickly cloned and re-shared by other users, faster than the content moderators could remove, and it remained on Facebook for a few weeks after the attack.

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Katherine Clark