Russian state media monitor Roskomnadzor is pressuring social media outlets, especially TikTok, to restrict online content in support of protests following the arrest of prominent dissident Alexei Navalny, the Moscow Times reported Thursday.
TikTok, in particular, has seen an explosion of young Russians posting videos calling for mass protests over Navalny’s arrest. It is a crime in Russia to incite minors to attend “illegal” gatherings, the restrictions on which have become even tougher due to the coronavirus pandemic, Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty (RFERL) noted.
In a Wednesday statement, Roskomnadzor announced it had requested that TikTok delete the video content that violates Russian law. The statement, which appeared on Russian social media network VKontakte, outlined the request:
“Materials are being spread via TikTok, calling young users of the social network to take part in illegal mass protest events,” it said. “We request that you immediately take comprehensive measures to prevent the distribution of such unlawful information on the TikTok platform.”
Videos promoting the mass protests, scheduled for this Saturday, have reportedly amassed over 200 million cumulative views.
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Apart from efforts at censorship, the Russian state has attempted to discourage protesting through other means. Russian police announced they would seek prosecution of individuals calling people to protest on Thursday, according to Interfax. School teachers and administrators have also reportedly threatened to expel any students caught at the Saturday protests.
Federal authorities arrested Navalny upon his return to the country after spending several months in Germany recuperating from an alleged poisoning attempt involving the deadly nerve agent Novichok, infamous for its use in political assassinations, most notably the botched Kremlin hit on former intelligence operative Sergei Skripal. There is no significant record of the use of Novichok by any actors without ties to the Russian or former Soviet state.
After Navalny’s arrest, supporters gathered outside of the police station, where he faced a makeshift court and questionable legal proceedings likely designed to ensure he remain in custody, to demand his release.
In a video filmed inside the station, Navalny urged his supporters to take the streets.
“Do not be silent. Resist. Take to the streets. No one but ourselves will protect us, and there are so many of us that if we want to achieve something, we will achieve it,” he said.