Users in Russia won’t be able to use Twitter even though Elon Musk restored thousands of accounts. Moscow blocked Twitter access in February as part of its wider effort to stop the spread of information after it invaded Ukraine unprovoked.
NetBlocks is a digital advocacy organization that monitors Internet outages. It first reported that service had been restricted days after Russia invaded.
In retaliation to Russia’s attempt to restrict state-owned media, Russia also blocked Facebook access. In response to Russia’s invasion, Facebook and Instagram took down the news sites Russia Today (RT), and Sputnik (EU) from the sister platform Instagram. This action received an immediate response by Russia’s communication regulator which blocked the services.
These restrictions can be circumvented by a virtual personal network (VPN), but most users still have difficulty accessing the services.
Roger Entner (Recon Analytics), a social media analyst and technology expert, said that Russia needs to dictate the story of Ukraine’s war.
Entner stated that Russia isn’t interested in allowing the truth to be revealed through Twitter and any other social media network Russia doesn’t control, which could disturb the false narrative.
Blocking is not happening
Now more than nine months later, it is unlikely that access to the social media platforms will be restored – even as State Duma member Anton Tkachev (of the New People party) had called upon Andrei Lipov, head of the Federal Service for Supervision of Communications, Information Technology and Mass Media within the Russian government, to consider lifting the restrictions on Twitter.
The Russian telecom watchdog responded that “there are no grounds to unblock the mentioned resource”, according to Tass state media outlet.
Moscow could have reasoned that Ukraine’s war didn’t go as planned, and therefore decided to keep social media under wraps. Particularly since platforms such Twitter were heavily used in the Arab Spring’s 2011 campaign for communication.
It is possible that the Kremlin sees microblogging as an opportunity to promote dissent.
This is not surprising. “Twitter has been used for opposition to authoritarian regimes, and Putin is wary of it,” stated Dr. Matthew Schmidt (director of the International Affairs Program at Yale University and senior consultant at Blue-Ink Global).
Schmidt said, “It’s also an important source of truthful news regarding the war,” Schmidt added. It followed the Chinese example and set up entire alternative services that it controlled content such as VK. Telegram and Twitter feed each other, driving each other’s content in a feedback loop.
Russian President Vladimir Putin may have difficulty controlling the narrative if they have access to social media. The Russian leader announced already that he would not host his annual end-of the-year press conference. Experts suggest that this is because he does not want to be confronted with hard questions on the war.
Twitter also offered virtually a play-by-play virtual replay of Russia’s losses in Ukraine.
Schmidt said that “You can see the posts of every tank destroyed and each helicopter shot down and, more importantly, the videos of Russian soldiers responding to the war. Their conditions and the sense of government abandonment.” The totality of all these messages points to the core of Kremlin domestic propaganda, and they are all available on Twitter.