Facebook, Twitter, YouTube could soon be blocked in Russia for “censorship”

Russian lawmakers on Wednesday took a step closer to allowing regulators to block internet platforms such as Facebook and YouTube if it is believed that they have censored content produced by Russians.

The Russian House of Commons, which passed a draft law in third reading, said in a media release that authorities can target platforms if they are found to be restricting information based on their nationality and language.

The Lower House State Duma added that Internet websites could also be sanctioned “in the event of discrimination against the content of Russian media”.

In a statement accompanying the bill, the authors wrote that earlier this year the authorities had received complaints from Russian media that their accounts had been censored by “foreign internet platforms Twitter, Facebook and YouTube”.

Earlier this year, US tech giants introduced labels for state media companies.

The legislation must now be approved by the House of Lords Federation Council before President Vladimir Putin legally signs it. These steps are considered formalities.

In recent years, the Kremlin has stepped up its efforts to control the Russian internet segment under the pretext of combating online extremism.

In 2018, regulators ordered the blocking of the encrypted courier service Telegram, although those attempts ended earlier this year after its co-founder Pavel Durov reported on steps taken to combat extremism.

Last week a Moscow court fined Google for failing to remove online content banned by Russian authorities. This is the latest in a series of escalating penalties.

In February, a Moscow court convicted Twitter and Facebook of failing to comply with a Russian law requiring the user data of Russian citizens to be stored in the country.

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