News / Science & Technology

    Russian Official Threatens to Block Twitter, Medvedev Walks Back

    An illustration picture shows the logo of the Website Twitter, January 30, 2013.
    An illustration picture shows the logo of the Website Twitter, January 30, 2013.

    Related Articles

    Abduction of Nigerian Schoolgirls Ignites Global Social Media

    Activists' attempt to use social media to raise awareness has its critics, who say that a hashtag oversimplifies events on the ground

    Freeing China's Sina Weibo

    China has limited or completely blocked access to many websites where citizens share their opinions
    A high ranking Russian media regulator threatened to block Twitter today, but the threat was quickly walked back by Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev.
     
    Maxim Ksenzov, deputy head of Roskomnadzor, a federal body charged with overseeing the media, said that because Twitter has not responded to requests to ban users and remove what it called illegal content, blocking it would be “almost inevitable.”
     
    Medvedev posted on Facebook and Twitter that officials should "sometimes switch on their brains" and "not give interviews announcing the closure of social networks."
     
    "As an active user of social networks," Medvedev wrote, "I believe that everyone -- networks and users -- must comply with Russian law."
     
    The debate about Twitter was sparked when Russian officials said the microblogging site had ignored demands to delete extremist content. Additionally, Russian officials said they were concerned with fake accounts and accounts that spread what they say is libelous information.
     
    According to ITAR-TASS, Twitter did remove an account at the request of Russian authorities in late February because it was “disseminating banned information about Syria, including photos of corpses and executions.”
     
    Other requests have been ignored, officials said.
     
    Despite Medvedev’s statements, media freedom experts were concerned.
     
    Eva Galperin of the Electronic Frontiers Foundation, a digital liberties watchdog group, said  it’s “very disturbing” when a high-ranking official threatens to shut down a service like Twitter.

    And shutting it down is certainly something Russia has the capability to do.
     
    According to Doug Madory, an analyst at Renesys, an Internet intelligence company based in Manchester, N.H., Russia could block Twitter over the entire country.
     
    “There is presently a mechanism to block webpages and IP addresses nationally in Russia,” he said in an email to VOA. “They could add twitter domains and IPs addresses to that block list.”
     
    The Russian government maintains a public database of blocked IP addresses and domains on its blacklist.
     
    Christopher Burgess, CEO of Prevendra, a security, intelligence and privacy company, said the Russian complaint about fake accounts was interesting.
     
    These, he said “could be construed as either ‘bots’ or those individuals choosing anonymity.”
     
    “The former, from my optic, is policed by Twitter's spam team with vigor, the latter may be viewed as a necessity by those wishing to dissent in opinion,” he said. “If the Russian government believes individuals have engaged in libelous action by posting defaming content, they should pursue direct litigation against the offending party.”
     
    He added that there have been a number of cases in which the individual libeled has persevered and obtained a court mandated solution.
     
    “Blocking Twitter to the nation probably isn't a good idea, as other nations have attempted such and found social networks flow like water, the water will find a way down the hill,” he said.
     
    Twitter did not respond to a request for comment about the Russian threat to block it.
     
    Medvedev isn’t the only Russian leader who has embraced social media.
     
    The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs recently engaged the head of NATO, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, in a Twitter spat over the crisis in Ukraine.

    If Twitter is blocked, it would represent a further Russian effort to tighten control of the Internet.
     
    In March, the Kremlin blocked the websites of opposition leader Garry Kasparov, the independent Ekho Moskvy (Echo of Moscow) radio station and the online newspaper Grani.

    Last month, Pavel Durov, founder of the country’s most popular social network, VKontakte, said he was fired as CEO and forced to flee to Central Europe after refusing to hand over Euromaidan protesters’ private information to Russian authorities.
     
    Also in April, Russia’s State Duma passed a bill would require bloggers with over 3,000 daily viewers to register with the government. They’d face the same scrutiny – some say censorship – experienced by Russian TV and newspapers.

    You May Like

    In Britain, The Sun Still Doesn’t Shine

    Invoking Spitfires and Merlin, Leave voters insist country can be great again, following surprising 'Brexit' vote last week

    Double Wave of Suicide Bombings Puts Lebanon, Refugees on Edge

    Following suicide bombings in Christian town of Al-Qaa, on Lebanon's northeast border with Syria, fears of further bombings have risen

    US Senators Warned on Zika After Failing to Pass Funding

    Zika threats and challenges, as well as issues of contraception and vaccines, spelled out as lawmakers point fingers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Slow Rebuilding Amid Boko Haram Destruction in Nigeria’s Northeasti
    X
    June 29, 2016 6:15 PM
    Military operations have chased Boko Haram out of towns and cities in Nigeria’s northeast since early last year. But it is only recently that people have begun returning to their homes in Adamawa state, near the border with Cameroon, to try to rebuild their lives. For VOA, Chris Stein traveled to the area and has this report.
    Video

    Video Slow Rebuilding Amid Boko Haram Destruction in Nigeria’s Northeast

    Military operations have chased Boko Haram out of towns and cities in Nigeria’s northeast since early last year. But it is only recently that people have begun returning to their homes in Adamawa state, near the border with Cameroon, to try to rebuild their lives. For VOA, Chris Stein traveled to the area and has this report.
    Video

    Video Clinton Leads Trump, But Many Voters Don't Like Either

    In the U.S. presidential race, most recent polls show Democrat Hillary Clinton with a steady lead over Republican Donald Trump as both presumptive party nominees prepare for their party conventions next month. Trump’s disapproval ratings have risen in some recent surveys, but Clinton also suffers from high negative ratings, suggesting both candidates have a lot of work to do to improve their images before the November election. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video New US Ambassador to Somalia Faces Heavy Challenges

    The new U.S. envoy to Somalia, who was sworn into office Monday, will be the first American ambassador to that nation in 25 years. He will take up his post as Somalia faces a number of crucial issues, including insecurity, an upcoming election, and the potential closure of the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya. VOA’s Jill Craig asked Somalis living in Kenya’s capital city Nairobi how they feel about the U.S. finally installing a new ambassador.
    Video

    Video At National Zoo, Captivating Animal Sculptures Illustrate Tragedy of Ocean Pollution

    The National Zoo in Washington, D.C., is home to about 1,800 animals, representing 300 species. But throughout the summer, visitors can also see other kinds of creatures there. They are larger-than-life animal sculptures that speak volumes about a global issue — the massive plastic pollution in our oceans. VOA's June Soh takes us to the zoo's special exhibit, called Washed Ashore: Art to Save the Sea.
    Video

    Video Baghdad Bikers Defy War with a Roar

    Baghdad is a city of contradictions. War is a constant. Explosions and kidnappings are part of daily life. But the Iraqi capital remains a thriving city, even if a little beat up. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on how some in Baghdad are defying the stereotype of a nation at war by pursuing a lifestyle known for its iconic symbols of rebellion: motorbikes, leather jackets and roaring engines.
    Video

    Video Melting Pot of Immigrants Working to Restore US Capitol Dome

    The American Iron Works company is one of the firms working to renovate the iconic U.S. Capitol Dome. The company employs immigrants of many different cultural and national backgrounds. VOA’s Arman Tarjimanyan has more.
    Video

    Video Testing Bamboo as Building Material

    For thousands of years various species of bamboo - one of the world's most versatile plants - have been used for diverse purposes ranging from food and medicine to textiles and construction. But its use on a large scale is hampered because it's not manufactured to specific standards but grown in the ground. A University of Pittsburgh professor is on track to changing that. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Orphanage in Iraqi City Houses Kids Who Lost their Parents to Attacks by IS

    An orphanage in Iraqi Kurdistan has become home to scores of Yazidi children who lost their parents after Islamic State militants took over Sinjar in Iraq’s Nineveh Province in 2014. Iraqi Kurdish forces backed by the U.S. airstrikes have since recaptured Sinjar but the need for the care provided by the orphanage continues. VOA’s Kawa Omar filed this report narrated by Rob Raffaele.
    Video

    Video Re-Opening Old Wounds in a Bullet-Riddled Cultural Landmark

    A cultural landmark before Lebanon’s civil war transformed it into a nest of snipers, Beirut’s ‘Yellow House’ is once again set to play a crucial role in the city.  Built in a neo-Ottoman style in the 1920s, in September it is set to be re-opened as a ‘memory museum’ - its bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking the city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Brexit Resounds in US Presidential Contest

    Britain’s decision to leave the European Union is resounding in America’s presidential race. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump sees Britain’s move as an affirmation of his campaign’s core messages, while Democrat Hillary Clinton sees the episode as further evidence that Trump is unfit to be president.
    Video

    Video NASA Juno Spacecraft, Nearing Jupiter, to Shed Light on Gas Giant

    After a five-year journey, the spacecraft Juno is nearing its destination, the giant planet Jupiter, where it will enter orbit and start sending data back July 4th. As Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, the craft will pierce the veil of Jupiter's dense cloud cover to reveal its mysteries.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora