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Russia tightens grip on US social media giants

Sou-Jie van Brunnersum with Reuters
December 23, 2020

Russia's parliament has passed bills which could grant the government the power to block access to YouTube, Twitter and Facebook. Lawmakers said the social media giants have targeted state media accounts unfairly.

Logos of social media giants
Moscow has singled out YouTube, Facebook and Twitter for having "discriminated" against the accounts of Russian state-run media outlets Image: Ozan Kose/AFP/Getty Images

Russia could restrict access to US social media giants if they "discriminate" against content from Russian state media and impose hefty fines on platforms that do not remove banned content, according to bills passed by the parliament's lower house on Wednesday

Lawmakers behind the bills argued YouTube, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram had failed to remove hundreds of URL pages containing banned content, as required by Russian law.

The two bills still need to be approved by the upper house and signed by President Vladimir Putin.

What do the two bills entail?

The first bill would allow Moscow to restrict or fully block foreign websites they view as breaching Russia's rights by controlling content.

Lawmakers cited complaints from state media agencies that their platforms were being treated with prejudice by Twitter, Facebook and Youtube.

In August, Twitter began tagging  "state-affiliated media" on several Russian media outlet accounts including those of their senior staff.

The second bill would authorize Moscow to penalize internet providers and sites between 10% and 20% of their previous year's Russia-based turnover for repeatedly failing to delete prohibited content.

They can be fined a maximum 8 million roubles ($106,130, €87,418) for the first time sites fail to remove content on child sexual abuse, information about recreational drugs, and content encouraging extremist activity.  

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