The latest in a series of actions against the social media giant that has been used to intensify opposition in Russia, a court in Moscow fined Twitter on Friday for failing to take down calls urging children to participate in illegal rallies.
The court found Twitter guilty of three counts of breaching laws aimed at preventing the spread of illegal content and ordered the company to pay three fines totaling RUB 8.9 million (approximately $117,000).
The decision comes two weeks after Roskomnadzor, state communications watchdog of Russia, threatened to block Twitter in 30 days if it did not take action to remove banned content.
Last month, Roskomnadzor accused Twitter of failing to remove content urging children to commit suicide, as well as drug and child pornography data. Because of this, the agency reported on March 10 that the uploading of images and videos to the website would be slowed. In response, Twitter reiterated its zero-tolerance policy for child sexual abuse, suicide promotion, and drug sales.
Less than a week later, Roskomnadzor deputy chief Vadim Subbotin said that Twitter was still not compliant with Russia authorities’ demands, warning that “if things continue like this, it will be blocked in a month.”
Russian authorities chastised social media sites earlier this year for mobilising tens of thousands of people across the country in January to demand the release of imprisoned Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, Putin’s best known critic. The surge of protests was the biggest in years, posing a serious threat to the Kremlin.
According to the authorities, social media outlets failed to delete calls for children to engage in the demonstrations. Putin has encouraged police to step up their efforts to control social media sites and apprehend those who “invite children to engage in unlawful and unsanctioned street acts.”
On Friday, Twitter said nothing about the Moscow court decision.
The Russian government has been working to tighten control over the internet and social media since 2012, when a law was passed authorising authorities to blacklist and censor such online content. Since then, Russia has placed an increasing range of restrictions on messaging applications, blogs, and social media networks.
The government has threatened to block Facebook and Twitter on several occasions, but has refrained from enacting outright bans, possibly due to public outrage.