Heat on U.S. social media platforms is now blowing from Russia whose lower house of parliament inked a series of bills this week cracking down on sites that Moscow says discriminate against its media.
Twitter labels some Russian media ‘state-affiliated,’ for instance, which Moscow objects to, according to news reports.
Backers of the new Russian laws — which could lead to the blocking or slowing down of leading U.S. social media sites in the country — draw on ready-made complaints from the U.S. where lawmakers and others particularly on the right have ratcheted up accusations that the platforms are biased.
Opposition leaders like Alexei Navalny, who has accused government agents of trying to poison him in August, use the social media platforms to bypass state media censorship and reach Russians directly.
Putin’s government is focused on enhancing Russia’s internet sovereignty, a catchword for heightened controls. Another bill would fine companies up to 20% of annual revenue in Russia for failing to remove banned content. The package also includes measures that would crack down on online slander and on leaks regarding federal security personnel. Others would allow Putin, who was meant to leave office in 2024, run for two more six year terms, allow the government to ban rallies in emergencies and to prohibit their funding by foreign agents.
The bills were passed by Russia’s lower house, the State Duma.
Twitter, Facebook and YouTube have added warning labels to posts by President Donald Trump and his allies with increasing frequency this year, including the volley of unsubstantiated accusations of voter fraud in the November election. The president has threatened to repeal Section 230, a decades old statute that protects platforms from legal liability for most content that runs. Most recently, the president attempted to revoke Section 230 using a defense bill but was rebuffed by Congress. Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell just revived it in an unlikely wildcard bill connected with aid checks.