Russian authorities said today they have slowed access to Twitter in Russia because the social media site allegedly failed to remove illegal content. The Russian authorities have classified Twitter as a “threat” and said they could block it altogether if it does not censor such content.
Earlier this year, the government pressured Twitter and other major tech companies to censor requests to participate in peaceful, unsanctioned protests against corruption and in support of imprisoned opposition person Alexei Navalny. Authorities fined social media platforms and threatened to block them if they were unable to censor posts to protests.
Roskomnadzor, the state’s media regulator, said the enforced slowdown only targeted video and image files on Twitter, not the tweets themselves. Internet service providers reported a general slowdown in access to Twitter.
The slowdown is said to be facilitated by Deep Packet Inspection (DPI) technology, which can be used to filter, redirect and block internet traffic. This is not the first time authorities have tried to block social media platforms for failing to comply with suppression laws. However, this is the first reported attempt to restrict access to a large social media platform made easier by this technology.
Russia’s sovereign Internet law of 2019 required Internet service providers to install DPI technology on networks so that the state could exercise direct control over traffic. Internet experts have criticized DPI technology for facilitating censorship and unsupervised disruption.
Following Roskomnadzor’s statement to slow down access to Twitter, access to some government websites was cut, including those of the State Duma, the Security Council, the Kremlin and Roskomnadzor. Access to these websites was later restored. Some personal websites and online payment services also reported malfunctions.
According to Roskomnadzor, these disruptions were caused by technical problems from Rostelecom, Russia’s largest Internet service provider, and were not related to Twitter’s forced slowdown.
The slowdown of Twitter by using DPI goes against net neutrality, the principle that Internet service providers should treat all Internet communications equally and without discrimination. Russian authorities should stop pressuring social networks to censor online content, including through the use of DPIs, which violates privacy, freedom of expression and access to information.