Russia threatens to ban Twitter - in minutes

The Russian regulator of the Internet has threatened to block Twitter, amid growing fears that the country is trying to strangle the Web.

“We can block Twitter or Facebook in Russia tomorrow within a few minutes,” said Maksim Ksenzov, the deputy chairman at the Roskomnadzor agency, in an interview with a Russian newspaper published on Friday. “We do not see any risks in that."

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“If at any point we believe that the consequences of ‘switching off’ social networks will be less significant than the damage done to Russian society by the unconstructive position of the leadership of international companies, we will do what we have to under the law,” he added.

The remarks comes after other signals of a crackdown on the Internet in Russia.

In recent weeks, the Russian parliament has imposed new restrictions on bloggers with more than 3,000 Twitter follows and made moves to limit social media sites like Facebook and Skype. Under a new law, the sites would be barred from the country unless they move their servers to Russia and commit to keeping information about Russian users for at least six months.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has also taken a skeptical view of the Web, calling it a “CIA project” that needed to be controlled.

If Russia were to prohibit Twitter, it would follow a similar move by Turkey.

The Obama administration was heavily critical of the ban, which was launched in reaction to claims of corruption that spread through the site ahead of key municipal elections. The service came back online after the country’s highest court called the ban illegal.