From March 10, Roskomnadzor began a centralized “primary slowdown” of Twitter on all Russian mobile devices and on half of desktop computers, the ministry’s press service said.
Since 2017, over 28,000 initial and repeated requests to remove illegal links and publications have been sent to the microblogging service, but as of yesterday, 3,168 materials remained unremoved, including those with children’s suicide calls, child pornography and information about drug use. explains Roskomnadzor pessimization of Twitter traffic. Officials were outraged when the service did not remove calls for mass suicide of adolescents on March 3 this year, the ministry said in a statement. If Twitter does not stop ignoring the requirements of Roskomnadzor, it will be blocked in Russia, its representatives warn.
Twitter was created in March 2006 in the USA, the official launch took place in August 2006, in May 2007 the company of the same name was founded. At the end of Q4 2020, the average number of daily active users was 192 million. Its largest shareholders are Jack Dorsey (2.01%), The Vanguard Group (10.4%), Morgan Stanley Investment Management (8.0%). Free float – 97.75% of the company’s shares. In 2020, Twitter’s revenue was $ 3.7 billion, with a net loss of $ 1.1 billion.
Twitter is a niche service in Russia. According to Brand Analitycs, in October 2020, there were only 690,000 active users of this resource in the Russian Federation, who wrote about 32 million messages per month.
How much Twitter has slowed down in Russia, neither the representatives of Roskomnadzor, nor the employees of the operators say. According to the Downdetector service, since yesterday morning, dozens of complaints have been received about the quality of Twitter’s work (although in previous days this figure was close to zero). “There is no single picture yet – for some, Twitter does not work at all, for some, uploading photos and files slows down, and many users have no problems at all,” a person familiar with managers of several digital companies describes the situation. According to him, most likely, the slowdown of Twitter traffic did not affect the networks of many providers.
“Traffic degradation extends to the delivery of audio, video content and graphic images. Text messages on the social network Twitter are delivered without restrictions. The task of completely blocking Twitter at the moment is not worth it, but it is possible, ”said a representative of Roskomnadzor.
Representatives of Twitter did not answer Vedomosti’s questions.
Centralized filtering, blocking Internet traffic, as well as adjusting the routes of its movement through the networks is authorized by the special Center for Monitoring and Control of the Public Communication Network under the control of the Federal State Unitary Enterprise “Main Radio Frequency Center”, whose activities, in turn, are supervised by Roskomnadzor. Such powers were given to him in 2019 by amendments to the Laws “On Communications” and “On Information” – their package is called “the law on the sovereign Internet.”
Among other things, this package instructs all Russian mobile and fixed-line networks to install special equipment that supports Deep Packet Inspection (DPI) technology. It allows you to analyze the data passing through them, block certain traffic and change its routes. Ideally, the Monitoring Center should control all Russian data transmission networks. But in practice, his equipment is not yet available everywhere, says a person familiar with the managers of several Internet companies. Therefore, filtering and blocking traffic is often done by operators who have DPI and who are ready to meet the requests of officials of the supervisory authority, explains the source of Vedomosti.
However, closing all networks in this way also does not work – not everyone has DPI, in particular, small regional providers do not have DPI, one of the market participants told Vedomosti earlier.
Filtration equipment in all regions of Russia is operating normally, a representative of Roskomnadzor insists.
The slowdown in Twitter coincided with a malfunction of the websites of Russian companies and government agencies – users reported the inaccessibility of the portals of the Federation Council and the State Duma, the site of the Qiwi payment system, problems with Internet access for Rostelecom subscribers, and so on. A Roskomnadzor spokesman denies a link between the disruptions and sanctions against Twitter: “The problems with Internet access that Rostelecom users have experienced since 12:00 on March 10 were due to a malfunction in the operator’s equipment and are not related to the actions of Roskomnadzor.”
At 14.45, the network was restored, the websites of government agencies became available. “The reasons for the failure are being studied in order to avoid similar situations in the future,” said a representative of Rostelecom.
“The reasons for the failure of the websites of government agencies could be the incorrect operation of DPI on the networks of operators,” suggested the former CEO of the hosting provider Diphost Philip Kulin. “These systems determine the type of traffic by a set of features – by some parameters, they could coincide with Twitter.” The equipment installed by Roskomnadzor could also not withstand the load associated with the need to manage Twitter traffic, Kulin does not exclude.
Special exercises, in which officials and employees of operators take part, are called upon to check and improve the runet control system, but last year such exercises were not conducted due to the COVID-19 epidemic, employees of relevant departments told Vedomosti earlier. In addition, the operation of DPI filters could be affected by a change in traffic routing in Europe and Russia, in particular, associated with a fire in one of the largest data centers in Europe OVH in Strasbourg. “Obviously, those who made the decision to manipulate Twitter traffic did not take into account the situation that had developed at a particular moment in the Russian and global segment of the Internet,” Kulin believes.
Experts state that the Twitter slowdown is the first (at least known) case in Russia when the traffic of a popular Internet service is pessimized.
“We can say that this is the first trial of the new legislation, which has been prepared and tested over the past two years,” says Yaroslav Shitsle, head of the IT & IP Dispute Resolution department at the Rustam Kurmaev & Partners law firm.
“This is an important precedent for the industry, which in the future may change the Russian Internet market,” said Konstantin Ankilov, CEO of TMT Consulting.
“Formally, the dissemination of information by the social network is included in the list of threats for Russian users – at least this is indicated by the official statement of Roskomnadzor, but at the same time, instead of blocking the resource, which is already a common practice, it was decided to limit traffic using DPI, and even selectively, if remember that the restriction affected only half of the users using computers for access. This is, to put it mildly, strange from the point of view of the effectiveness of the fight against threats. But if we consider such a decision as a sanction, and not an invitation to dialogue, then it looks gentle, ”said Pavel Ikkert, managing partner of the law firm Ikkert and Partners.
According to Shitsle, Twitter may try to challenge the restriction of access to his service in a Russian court. “But it is clear that success will require compliance with the requirements of Russian government agencies. Users can also challenge the violation of their rights to freedom of dissemination of information, but this approach is unlikely to be successful, since Roskomnadzor restricts access to the social network, allegedly in connection with the failure of the latter to comply with Russian legislation, which is aimed at protecting public safety, ”the expert points out.
The situation with Twitter is not the first attempt by Roskomnadzor to restrict the activities of the popular Internet service. In 2018, the department, by decision of the Tagansky Court of Moscow, tried to block the work of the Telegram messenger in Russia. Following the instructions of the department, the operators blocked access to entire blocks of IP addresses – at the peak of blocking their number exceeded 19 million. But such a measure to combat the messenger turned out to be ineffective – Telegram users continued to access it through VPN and proxy servers. In addition, Roskomnadzor began to receive tens of thousands of complaints from website owners whose resources were blocked along with Telegram. As a result, the number of blocked IP addresses first decreased, and in mid-2020 the messenger was legalized in Russia.