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Russia Backs Off Plan to Block Twitter, Extends Slowdown

Russia Monday backed off a threat to block Twitter inside the country but said it will continue to slow down the social media site until mid-May.The move comes as the state media watchdog, Roskomnazdor, said Twitter has been removing banned content more quickly. It had said Twitter failed to remove content encouraging child suicide, pornography and content about drug use.Roskomnazdor said it took into account “the decision made by Twitter for the first time to change the principles and speed of its own moderation service in Russia, and the removal of a significant part of the prohibited content,” according to a statement.Still, the agency said Twitter took, on average, 81 hours to remove flagged content. Russian laws require that such content be removed within 24 hours after notification.Twitter now has until May 15 to come into “full compliance” with Russian law, the agency said.Roskomnazdor announced March 10 that it would slow Twitter and threatened to block it completely.Twitter said it has been in contact with Roskomnazdor.“It was a productive discussion about how we can both work to ensure that reports of such illegal content are dealt with expeditiously,” Twitter said in a statement.Twitter maintained it has a zero-tolerance policy for child exploitation, and content encouraging suicide and unlawful behavior.In addition to potentially harmful content, Russian officials have been critical of social media’s role in fueling protests. In January, tens of thousands of Russians participated in protests calling for the release of jailed opposition leader Alexey Navalny.Officials said social media platforms were used to encourage children to participate in the demonstrations.The Russian government has been threatening Twitter and Facebook for years with shutdowns, but never followed through.  

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