Medvedev allays concerns over Twitter, Facebook block in Russia

Medvedev allays concerns over Twitter, Facebook block in Russia
Photograph: Spencer E Holtaway under a CC licence

16 May 2014
Text Nadia Beard

Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev has spoken out against the possibility that Twitter and Facebook could be banned in Russia following remarks by a state official that blocking these social media websites “would be inevitable”.

Writing on his official Facebook page today, Medvedev said: “As an active social networks user I believe that everyone — both the networks and the users — should comply with Russian legislation. However, some officials in charge of the industry’s development should use their brain from time to time. And they shouldn’t give interviews announcing the blocking of social networks.”

His comments were made in response to Maxim Ksenzov, deputy head of federal media watchdog Roskomnadzor, who, in an interview with Izvestia newspaper last week, said that Twitter’s repeated refusal to agree to the organisation’s demands created conditions which made “blocking the service in Russia almost inevitable”.

Backpedalling this morning, Ksenzov told news agency ITAR-TASS: “My words about the possible blocking are a sign to foreign online mediums that they should establish relations with the regulator of the market they are operating in. Nobody intends to block neither Twitter, nor Facebook, nor Google. However, under Russian legislation, we must block resources circulating extremist reports.”

Both websites have recently been accused by officials of refusing to comply with Russia’s law to protect personal data and limit banned information on the internet. In last week’s interview, Ksenzov credited much of the problem surrounding Twitter and Facebook in Russia to their US origin. He said: “There is a general problem in the interaction with global companies of American origin: Twitter, Facebook and Google. Twitter and Facebook are not legally present in Russia.”

Turkey’s recent attempt to block Twitter was also referred to by Ksenzov, who said that, “despite causing some outrage in western countries, there was a pretty low-key negative rhetoric”. He added: “If at some point we conclude that the consequences of ‘switching off’ social media would be less substantial than the damage caused to Russian society…we will do what we must by law.”

Recent months has seen a number of new bills passed in Russia that restrict media freedoms, including one which forces popular bloggers to register their details with Roskomnadzor causing concern among Russia’s internet users.