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RuNet Watchdog ‘Baffled’ by Twitter's Refusal to Block Kremlin's Opponents

Images mixed by Tetyana Lokot.

Images mixed by Tetyana Lokot.

Roscomnadzor, the Russian telecommunications watchdog, seems to be unhappy with Twitter's latest transparency report, which demonstrates a significant increase in user data requests and takedown notices from the Russian government.

Alexandr Zharov, head of Roscomnadzor, told journalists that Twitter “has consistently refused to adhere to the demands of Russian legislation, including those aimed at combatting extremism,” and said Twitter's position caused “legitimate” questions for a company operating inside Russia.

Zharov's concern with Twitter's non-compliance stems from the fact that while Russia submitted 108 requests for user account data since June 2014, Twitter declined to provide information in response to any of them. The Russian government also issued 91 takedown or blocking requests in the last 6 months of 2014, including two supported by court orders. Twitter complied with 13% of the demands, blocking three accounts and deleting nine tweets, but reported that it “denied several requests to silence popular critics of the Russian government and other demands to limit speech about non-violent demonstrations in Ukraine.”

Roscomnadzor's Zharov said the watchdog was “baffled” by Twitter's refusal to block “popular opponents of the Russian government” and said the regulatory body would appeal to Twitter to demand an explanation.

Russian Internet regulators and Twitter have had a rocky relationship and have been trading public accusations despite ongoing negotiations, including several working meetings held in Moscow. Twitter representatives met with Roscomnadzor in June 2014, and later in December 2014, but the outcome of the meetings has been less than productive. It seems the relationship between Roscomnadzor and Twitter will continue to be the cat and mouse game it has been until now.

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