Twitter’s Russian fine for refusing to remove ‘banned’ content upheld

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

A Moscow court has upheld a fine imposed on Twitter over its refusal to remove posts related to unsanctioned rallies at which demonstrators expressed their support for jailed opposition politician Aleksei Navalny.

The Taganka district court on May 17 ruled that a decision last month to fine Twitter 3.2 million rubles ($43,200) for leaving the posts, which urged teenagers to take part in pro-Navalny rallies in January, was correct and that Twitter’s complaint against the ruling “was not satisfied.”

On April 2, an arm of the court also ordered Twitter to pay two other fines — one of 3.3 million rubles and one of 2.4 million rubles — bringing the total penalty imposed on Twitter at 8.9 million rubles ($126,150). Twitter has appealed the two other fines as well, with rulings still pending.

The court also said on May 17 that it had registered four new protocols against Facebook on similar accusations. Fines for those protocols could total 16 million rubles, which along with the previous protocols against the social network would bring the total amount to 56 million rubles ($750,000).

Russian officials said earlier in May that they had also filed similar protocols against Google.

The moves are the latest in a major dispute Moscow has with global social-media platforms over content allegedly related to political protests.

Russian critics of the Kremlin routinely use international social networks to get around state control of the media and reach tens of millions of citizens with their anti-government messages.

Navalny in January used U.S. social-media networks to organize some of the largest anti-government protests in almost a decade.

Russian authorities have gone as far as to threaten to ban social-media networks. Even though they have recently backed away from such threats, Russian regulators have punitively slowed user connections.

However, Russian media regulator Roskomnadzor said on May 17 that Twitter had started removing some of the banned content and therefore restrictions on its access across Russia had been partially lifted.

“It was decided not to block Twitter services and remove restrictions to access it in fixed networks, while continuing to keep Twitter traffic slow on mobile devices,” Roskomnadzor said in its statement, adding that Twitter must remove all content declared by the regulator as banned for a full cancellation of all of the restrictions imposed on the social network.

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