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Russian Court Fines Twitter $117,000 Over Posts Calling For Navalny Protests

The fines against U.S. social-media companies are part of a larger Kremlin strategy to weaken their influence in Russia, analysts say.  (illustrative photo)

A Russian court has fined Twitter nearly $117,000 for failing to delete what officials describe as banned content amid growing Kremlin pressure on U.S. social-media companies.

The April 2 decision against Twitter is the first in a series of rulings expected in the coming days against U.S. social-media companies in Russia. Cases are currently ongoing against Facebook and YouTube.

The cases all pertain to content published on their platforms in January that called on Russians to protest the arrest of Kremlin critic Aleksei Navalny.

Russia’s communications regulator Roskomnadzor described the postings as "inciting teenagers" to take part in "illegal activities" or "unauthorized mass events."

Navalny was detained by Russian police in mid-January upon his return from Germany on charges of violating his parole.

Navalny had been recuperating in Berlin after being poisoned with a military-grade nerve agent during a trip to Siberia in August to investigate local corruption. Navalny has accused officers of Russia’s Federal Security Service, or FSB, of trying to assassinate him with the nerve agent.

Tens of thousands of Russians around the country heeded the calls to protest on January 23 and January 31, making them among the largest anti-government demonstrations in years.

Russia later sentenced Navalny to jail for more than two years in a case he says is aimed at punishing him for surviving the poisoning.

The fines against U.S. social-media companies are part of a larger Kremlin strategy to weaken their influence in Russia, analysts say.

The strategy also includes slowing traffic speed and developing domestic equivalents to YouTube.

The Kremlin controls major media assets, including television, but social-media platforms, which are growing as a source of information for Russians, remain outside its control.

Navalny and his supporters have deftly used YouTube and Twitter to spread his anti-government message to millions of citizens.

Russia last month slowed the speed of Twitter and threatened to ban the social-media service outright.

Twitter at the time said it was "deeply concerned by increased attempts to block and throttle online public conversation."

With reporting by Reuters and AFP
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