Opposition media claims Facebook and Twitter will defy Russian censors over political content

By Mark Ames and Paul Carr , written on December 22, 2014

From The News Desk

According to Russian opposition media channel Dozhd', both Facebook and Twitter plan to defy new Russian online censorship laws intended to ban "extremism" and other political speech. The Russian language outlet quotes "several sources familiar with the situation."

Facebook has come under intense criticism inside Russian after taking down a page promoting a planned protest in support for opposition leader Alexei Navalny. Prosecutors are seeking a 10 year jail sentence for Navalny, over charges which supporters claim are politically motivated. The Facebook page for the event had drawn 12,000 RSVPs before Facebook took the page down, apparently on orders from Roskomnadzor, the federal agency in charge of enforcing media laws.

(Disclosure: In 2008, Roskomnadzor sent four agents into the offices of my defunct satirical newspaper, The eXile, closing it down charges of suspected "extremism.")

According to Dozhd's sources: "Both social media companies are prepared to be completely blocked on the territory of Russia [for defying Roskomnadzor orders]."

Dozhd' also reports that Twitter has decided it will not block tweets or accounts promoting the upcoming protest for Navalny planned on January 15 of next year. According to Dozhd', a source close to Twitter told them,

"They're deciding something much more serious than whether or not to block certain tweets."
So far, neither Facebook nor Twitter have officially confirmed any change of policy. Reached by Pando, a Facebook spokesperson declined to comment. A Twitter representative told Pando that the Dozhd' article is misleading because Twitter has not blocked any content regarding the planned January 15 protest for Navalny.
The piece you cited says "Twitter will no longer comply ..." but we haven't withheld *any* content related to the January 15th Navalny rally. It's not accurate.

We voluntarily self-disclose all actioned takedown requests to the Chilling Effects Clearinghouse, a project to increase transparency around Internet content removal, and there are no recent Twitter notices on the site now. Please note that the only companies that disclose to Chilling Effects are Twitter, Google, and Vimeo. When other companies remove content, they will not disclose the removal or share the government order demanding it.

Additionally, the (verified) @Navalny account is still up and very active, with 853,000 followers, and 60+ Tweets in the last 24 hours. On Saturday, the Washington Post reported that Facebook had blocked Russia users from accessing a page promoting a demonstration in support of Navalny:

The page was set up on Friday after prosecutors recommended that Navalny be sent to prison for 10 years in a criminal case that critics have said is purely politically motivated. Within hours, the page drew thousands of people who said they were planning to attend, and as of Saturday evening, the number stood at more than 12,300. But it was no longer visible to users inside Russia.
The Post also reported that "Twitter has also blocked accounts within Russia after being ordered to do so by the regulators."

According to sources inside Russia, the original Facebook page supporting Navalny is still unreachable, but a new page promoting the January 15th demonstration is still live as of this report, with over 27k people RSVP-ing that they intend to participate in the protest.