Russia’s Twitter Slowdown

Russia’s Twitter Slowdown

By Erik Allerson

On March 10th, 2021, Russia’s federal agency in charge of communications and information technology, Roskomnadzor, announced via the Russian social media website VKontakte that it had deliberately slowed down internet service speed for users in the country attempting to access Twitter.[1] It claimed to have decelerated the use of Twitter on 100% of mobile devices in the country and 50% of stationary devices in an attempt to protect users and force the company’s compliance with Russian law.[2] The agency justified its actions by claiming that Twitter had failed to remove content posted by users that pertained to suicide, child pornography, and drug use.[3] This deceleration was followed by a threat from the Kremlin to wholly block access to Twitter in Russia.[4] Notably, the Kremlin is also reportedly upset that Twitter currently labels some Russian media as “state-affiliated media.”[5]

Roskomnadzor’s statements and actions follow a glidepath that should be familiar to observers of internet freedom in the country, as “the Kremlin has repeatedly used the protection of minors as a pretext to limit free expression.”[6] Roskomnadzor cited “149-FZ” as the legal basis for its actions,[7] a provision also known as “the Information Act” which has routinely been relied upon by the Russian government when policing the online content its citizens have access to.[8] Russian authorities have steadily developed their online regulatory regime over the preceding decade,[9] allowing them to exert pressure on social media companies, silence dissent, and threaten citizens with severe criminal charges for content they post online.[10]

The European Court of Human Rights has repeatedly found Russia in violation of the European Convention on Human Rights’ Article 10 protections of the freedom to receive and impart information for blocking websites, social media posts, and other content.[11] In one such case, the government cited section 15.3(1) of the Information Act when it blocked a Russian citizen’s VKontakte account and three of his blog posts after he called for protests after the arrest of a political official.[12] The European Court of Human Rights found these actions constituted an impermissible “’interference by a public authority’ with the [citizen’s] right to freedom of expression, of which the freedom to receive and impart information and ideas is an integral part . . . .”[13] Russia’s latest actions against Twitter represent a modified approach to their prior actions, in that they have not (yet) completely blocked access to the site.[14]  Still, given the scale of the deceleration, which affects all mobile users and half of all desktop users of Twitter, it is a sign that the Russian government shows no signs of relaxing its online regulatory regime despite prior condemnation from the international community,[15] and will likely continue to use the Information Act as a basis to further police online content in the country.


[1] Roskomnadzor, VKontakte, (Mar. 10, 2021).

[2] Id.

[3] Id.

[4] Lucian Kim, Russia Slows Twitter in Blunt Warning to U.S.-Based Social Media Platforms, NPR (Mar. 10, 2021, 11:51 AM),

[5] Alexander Marrow, Russia, After Twitter Slowdown, Accuses U.S. of Using IT to Engage in Unfair Competition, Yahoo! News (Mar. 13, 2021, 4:02 AM),

[6] Id.

[7] Roskomnadzor, VKontakte, (Mar. 10, 2021).

[8] See, e.g., Kharitonov v. Russia, App. No. 10795/14 Eur. Ct. H.R. 1 (2020),

[9] Liudmila Sivetc, State Regulation of Online Speech in Russia: The Role of Internet Infrastructure Owners, 27 Int’l J.L. & Info. Tech. 28, 30 (2019).

[10] Alina Polyakova & Chris Meserole, Exporting Digital Authoritarianism: The Russian and Chinese Models 9 (2019).

[11] See, e.g., Bulgakov v. Russia, App. No. 20159/15 Eur. Ct. H.R. 1 (2020),

[12] Kablis v. Russia, App. No. 48310/16 Eur. Ct. H.R. 1, 2–3 (2019),

[13] Id. at 25.

[14] See Roskomnadzor, VKontakte, (Mar. 10, 2021).

[15] See, e.g., Kablis v. Russia, App. No. 48310/16 Eur. Ct. H.R. 1, 25 (2019),