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Facebook and Twitter ‘Won't Block’ Navalny in Russia, As Kremlin Continues to Block Protest Mentions

Russians joke that Roscomnadzor has even blocked the Manezhnaya square, site of January 15 protest, on Yandex Maps. Images edited by Tetyana Lokot.

Russians joke that Roscomnadzor has even blocked the Manezhnaya square, site of January 15 protest, on Yandex Maps. Images edited by Tetyana Lokot.

As Russian telecommunications regulators and law enforcement continue to play whack-a-mole online, in an attempt to block any mention of the January 15 protest in support of Alexey Navalny, it appears Facebook and Twitter have decided not to block any more pro-Navalny pages.

A TV Rain report, citing multiple sources, says Facebook has decided not to block any further protest content or pages, after the initial January 15 event page was blocked for Russian users. Twitter, TV Rain sources say, has also decided it will continue sending notifications to users whose content has been flagged by Roscomnadzor, but will not sanction the users in any way. Both platforms understand that such behavior could lead to Facebook and Twitter being fully blocked in Russia, TV Rain reports.

The initial Facebook event page for the January 15 protest is still unavailable to users inside Russia and others whose profiles are recognized as Russian. The new Facebook page, set up shortly after the blocking occurred, already has over 25 thousand users who signed up to participate.

This is what the initial Navalny protest event page looks like to a user from Russia. Image courtesy of Sergey Kozlovsky.

This is what the initial Navalny protest event page looks like to a user from Russia. [Text: The content is currently unavailable. The page you requested cannot be viewed at the moment. It might be temporarily unavailable, the link may have expired or you may not have permission to view this page.] Image courtesy of Sergey Kozlovsky.

A similar event page on VKontakte also remains blocked, and Nikolay Durov, the brother of VK founder Pavel Durov, said Roscomnadzor had sent 53 takedown requests to VK over a period of just 5 hours on December 21, targeting any groups and pages mentioning the word “Navalny.”

The Russian Internet blacklist is also filling up with protest-related links, as ISPs are asked to block any content that relates to January 15.

 

Some ISPs have quickly complied with Roscomnadzor requests, and are diligently blocking LiveJournal posts about the protest, although some have gone as far as to block the entirety of LiveJournal blogs.

Beeline are so good. Doing everything so that I don't find out from Volkov where to go on January 15. [Text in screenshot: The resource at this IP-address has been blocked by the decision of state bodies.]

Today's post has been blocked—some providers are blocking the post only, and others block my journal as a whole.

While Twitter has been sending notifications about protest-related content to users at the request of Roscomnadzor, RuNet veterans are quick to remind everyone how to easily circumvent Twitter geo-blocking:

Calm down, Twitter is not closing accounts altogether. Change your country in your settings and Roscomnadzor won't be a problem. See, I'm from Uganda now.

Some users, like Meduza's Sultan Suleymanov, echo Facebook and Twitter's concerns, and say RuNet users should be prepared for complete blocking of platforms like Twitter and Facebook, since the anti-protest law allows for that. Instructions on getting around the blocking of whole platforms are spreading around RuNet like wildfire.

As we get closer to January 15, the pressure on RuNet users and social media platforms will likely increase. But many commentators believe the censorship is unlikely to defer protesters from coming out in Manezhnaya square in Moscow and in other Russian cities. Instead, it might spur even greater participation.

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