Twitter says it hasn't blocked Russian extremist accounts

The company does say, though, that it's taught Russian officials how they can report illegal tweets for possible removal.

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Twitter will not unilaterally block extremist Russian accounts, but the company will remove tweets that are deemed inappropriate, according to a new report.

Russia, which finds itself at the middle of a complex international debate over Crimea and its annexation of that region, met with Twitter on Monday to discuss blocking accounts that the government believes are beyond the pale, Bloomberg is reporting, citing conversations with Twitter. And while the Russian government initially said that Twitter had agreed to block accounts in Russia that were too "extremist" in their views against the country, the microblogging service has denied those claims.

"That claim is inaccurate, as we did not agree to remove the accounts," a Twitter spokesman told Bloomberg.

The accounts in question relate to Ukrainian nationalist groups that are criticizing Russia for its move to bring Crimea under its roof. Approximately a dozen accounts have been identified by the Russian government as extremist, and Moscow has requested that Twitter block all of them.

A government spokesperson told Bloomberg that it was awaiting "a positive decision of Twitter administration about removal of these accounts or blocking access to them on Russian territory."

Twitter's involvement in the crisis between Russia and Ukraine is something of an issue for the company. Russia has a substantial online population and is using that to bend companies to its desire to censor Web content. Twitter's policies, however, allow for the blocking of Web content only in the event tweets or entire pages fly in the face of the company's terms of use.

Twitter has said that during its meetings with Russian leaders on Monday, it outlined the process for reporting illegal or harmful content, and will only respond to requests by the government if and when complaints are filed.

If Twitter fails to comply with Moscow's request, it might not be long before the Russian government takes matters into its own hands. Like China, North Korea, and several Middle East countries, Russia has policies in place that allow it to block any site that it wants if the page is viewed as harmful to the government or its citizenry.

In March, the government ordered all Russian Internet service providers to block access to Web sites criticizing President Vladimir Putin. Russia's censorship desires have even extended to the United Nations, where earlier this year it pushed to amend a telecommunications treaty that provides for unfiltered access to the Web across the world.

As of this writing, Twitter has not made a determination on the 12 accounts that Russia wants blocked.

CNET has contacted Twitter for comment. We will update this story when we have more information.

About the author

Don Reisinger is a technology columnist who has covered everything from HDTVs to computers to Flowbee Haircut Systems. Besides his work with CNET, Don's work has been featured in a variety of other publications including PC World and a host of Ziff-Davis publications.

 

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