If a Russian citizen “Likes” or retweets content the government deems illegal, it could mean five years in prison. President Vladimir Putin has given prosecutors the legal right to go after anyone—from neo-Nazis to fans of South Park. Twitter denies Russian claims that the messaging service will cooperate and block accounts on request. (Twitter would need to provide user logs–information that identifies who’s talking to who and when–in order for Russia’s policy to have any teeth.) Russian courts have already banned over 2,300 “extremist materials” since 2002. Beginning August 1, all bloggers, companies and organizations with more than 3,000 hits per day will be required to store user data on Russian servers. (China does this, too.)
Putin has been frank about his distrust of the Internet—calling it a “special CIA project.” However, there are two official Vladimir Putin Twitter accounts: one in Russian with 492k followers, and one in English with 105k followers (there are about 8 million Twitter users in Russia). They are linked accounts which report the President’s daily itinerary—meetings with Communist leaders, receptions honoring military academies, etc. Putin’s profile reads: “Tweets from the President are signed #VP.” His followers are still waiting.