Kremlin chokes Twitter, Texas AG starts legal gunfight over deplatforming

By Eric Johansson

Authorities in Russia and Texas have escalated their campaigns against social media and communications platforms overnight, with Twitter coming in for especially heavy-handed treatment.

The San Francisco-based social media business has been on a collision course with Vladimir Putin’s government for some time. However, Russia’s crackdown on Twitter has recently intensified after the platform hosted content from campaigners seeking freedom for opposition leader and Putin critic Antony Navalny, who was jailed in January.

On Wednesday, Kremlin communications watchdog Roskomnadzor announced that Twitter would be deliberately slowed down for users in Russia, Reuters reported. The regulator accused Twitter of having failed to remove banned content from its platform.

The announcement came alongside reports of Russian authorities suing Twitter, Google, Facebook, Telegram and TikTok for breaking a new law, introduced in February.

The Kremlin claims the tech businesses broke the new regulations requiring social media platforms to remove content that depict “illegal” content linked to Navalny, Russian news agency Interfax reported.

If a Moscow court finds the companies guilty of having breached the new legislation, it could force them to pay a fine of up to $55,000 dollars for each violation. The suit accused Facebook, Google and Twitter of each having broken the law three times, while Telegram faces two charges and TikTok only one.

Meanwhile in Texas…

Twitter storms are also brewing closer to home after the San Francisco company sued Texas’ attorney general Ken Paxton, claiming he used his position to retaliate against Twitter for banning former President Donald Trump in the Capitol riots aftermath. Five people were killed in the Washington rioting.

Following Trump’s deplatforming, Paxton, who has a history of protesting what he views as big tech silencing Republican voices, launched an investigation into Twitter, Google, Facebook, Amazon Web Services and Apple. The attorney general demanded that these companies share their records and policies regarding content moderation.

“For years, these big tech companies have silenced voices in the social media sphere and shut down competing companies and platforms,” he claimed, despite the protection of free speech only covering censorship from the government and not private companies.

Twitter has now responded with a suit arguing its decision to ban Trump was protected by free speech and that the judge should therefore order a halt the Texan politician’s investigation.

“Paxton made clear that he will use the full weight of his office, including his extensive investigatory powers, to retaliate against Twitter for having made editorial decisions with which he disagrees,” lawyers for the company wrote in the suit, cited by NBC News.

Read more: Facebook and Twitter suspend Trump, drawing line at inciting violent attack on Capitol

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