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Medvedev unimpressed by "Twitter block" threat

0 19 May 2014

Maksim Ksenzov, the deputy chief of Russian internet regulator Roskomnadzor has come in for criticism from Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev after suggesting in an interview that the blocking of Twitter in Russia is “practically unavoidable”. 

Medvedev used his Facebook page to respond, saying that:

“as an active user of social networks I think that Russian lawmakers are required to monitor both networks and their users. However, individual civil servants responsible for the sector must switch on their brains sometimes and refrain from giving interviews announcing the closure of social networks”.

In the interview with Izvestiya Ksensov boasted that

“We could block Twitter or Facebook in Russia tomorrow in a matter of minutes. We don’t see any great risks in doing so. If, at some point, we judge the consequences of turning off social networks to be less serious than the damage being done to Russian society by the unconstructive position adopted by the management of these international companies, then we will do what the law requires of us.”

Twitter was singled out for criticism for its repeated refusal to comply with Roskomnadzor’s demands to delete ‘illegal’ content. A law which came into force in February 2014 gives Roskomnadzor the right to block any online resource displaying “extremist material” (which includes any calls to unsanctioned protest meetings), child pornography or calls to suicide or drug abuse. 

As many operators are not able to block individual pages they instead block the IP-address used by the site. This not only means that whole services are taken offline, but also any other site that shares the IP-address. Since the law was passed both YouTube and Wikipedia have been blocked by regional internet providers. 

While Medvedev’s words might allay some fears, blocking will remain a major threat to sites operating in Russia as long as people like Ksenzov remain in control of internet regulation in the country.

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