On March 10, Russia slowed down Twitter. Roskomnadzor, the state communication watchdog, reported a slowdown of Twitter services on all mobile platforms and half of stationary devices. It goes about limiting the speed to download photos and videos, whilst text messages can be sent as usual.
"In order to protect Russian citizens and coerce the Internet service to comply with the legislation on the territory of the Russian Federation, on March 10, centralized responsive measures were taken in relation to Twitter - the service speed was slowed down in accordance with the regulations," the press release published on the Roskomnadzor website said.
The department promised to take measures "in accordance with response regulations (up to blocking the service) as long as calls to minors to commit suicide, child pornography, as well as information about the use of drugs remains online."
According to Roskomnadzor, Twitter, starting from 2017 and to this day, has not taken any measures to delete messages containing suicidal calls, child pornography and information on how to use drugs.
During that period of time, Roskomnadzor has sent more than 28,000 "initial and repeated claims to remove illegal links and publications" to the company. As of March 10, 2021, "3,168 materials containing prohibited information (including 2,569 posts calling minors to commit suicide, 450 posts with child pornography, 149 posts with information about the use of drugs) have not been deleted."
Some time after the announcement of the Twitter slowdown, users started reporting problems in the work of Rostelecom, one of Russia's leading telephony and Internet provider. The websites of the Kremlin, the State Duma, the Federation Council, as well as websites of a number of ministries and departments, including that of Roskomnadzor, stopped opening too. However, representatives of the department denied the connection between those problems and the slowdown in the work of Twitter services. Most of the sites were up and running again very quickly.
Officials with the Ministry of Digital Science told Interfax that problems with access to the websites of state bodies occurred due to failures in the operation of the systems of routers in the Rostelecom network and were not related to that measures that Roskomnadzor had taken to slow down the speed of Twitter.
Some suggested that the above-mentioned problems occurred as a result of the earlier announced cyber attack from the United States. This information has not been confirmed yet, though.
Putin's official spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that there were no goals to restrict the work of Twitter or any other foreign resources.
"Of course, Russians should be able to have access to all international resources. This is the main goal. But the oversight function is to ensure that these resources work within the framework of law and fulfil legal requirements of Russian departments on Russian territory. There is no desire to block anything, but taking steps to force those companies to comply with our laws is quite reasonable," he said.
Denis Kuskov, general director of TelecomDaily analytical agency said in an interview with Pravda.Ru that Twitter mainly works to exchange text messages, the "weight" of which is extremely small.
"Therefore, this slowdown is not going to mean anything serious for people who mainly use Twitter on their smartphones," the expert said.
Denis Kuskov believes that from a technical point of view, it is not that easy to slow down or stop the service.
"On the one hand, the state is in a position to do something, because no one listens. On the other hand, it may not always be technically efficient," the expert believes.
Denis Kuskov found it difficult to predict how the situation may develop further.
"Technically, the companies that officially work in Russia, such as Google or Apple, are interested in working here, since they make a lot of profit here. However, there are companies that work here, but have no legal representation in Russia. It is much more difficult to show influence on them," he said.
Russian pranksters Vovan and Lexus made a prank call to the NED administration on behalf of Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, a former presidential candidate at the Belarus election