Twitter blocks Russian diplomats over US Covid claim
Twitter has temporarily suspended the account belonging to Russia’s foreign ministry, officials in Moscow have revealed. According to the ministry’s spokeswoman, Maria Zakharova, the punitive measure was imposed after the diplomats cited a Russian military commander, who had alleged the US could have been behind the Covid-19 pandemic.
On Tuesday, Zakharova posted a message on her Telegram channel, saying that on August 5, Twitter “blocked for seven days the official account of the foreign ministry in English.” The diplomat explained that the harsh reaction had been triggered by the ministry posting a tweet featuring excerpts from a speech delivered earlier by the head of Russia’s Nuclear, Biological and Chemical Protection Troops, General-Lieutenant, Igor Kirillov.
The ministry’s tweet in question cited claims that the United States Agency for International Development could have been behind the Covid-19 pandemic.
Zakharova argued that it was highly doubtful that Twitter had the means to properly check those claims and was in a position to “call into question the defense ministry’s conclusions based on documents and fresh data.”
She dismissed the suspension as “yet another awkward attempt to shut our mouth.”
According to the diplomat, this was the first time Russia’s foreign ministry had faced “this kind of sanction.” Zakharova went on to explain that individual tweets by the ministry had been blocked before, but not the entire account, albeit for a week.
She branded Twitter’s decision as “beyond good and evil,” pointing out that Russia is “one of the leading countries in the world.”
The diplomat added that Russia’s embassies in the UK and Germany have also faced similar suspensions on multiple occasions, including over the publication of “facts (real and not made up) over the provocation in Bucha.”
Moreover, Zakharova called out Twitter for failing to deal with a “Russophobic bacchanalia on the part of Western politicians, experts and even ordinary users,” or with the activities of “Ukrainian trolls and bots” online.
The Russian official lamented that “direct calls for violence against Russians” are going unchecked on the social media platform. The foreign ministry’s spokeswoman went on to say that she did not recall any cases in which Ukrainian officials, who are “generating simply wild fakes” about the “atrocities/rape allegedly committed by Russian troops,” had been suspended in a similar fashion.
Zakharova warned Twitter that by “trampling on the principle of free speech” Twitter is “sawing off the branch it’s sitting on.” She claimed that the social media giant “has long been stagnating,” with next to no confidence in it and falling user numbers. The diplomat also cited Elon Musk’s refusal to buy Twitter as further proof of its sorry state of affairs.
She concluded by saying that “of course, you can block us, but the truth will out.” Zakharova added that Russia’s foreign ministry will simply cease using American platforms which have become Washington’s “censorship tool.”
As of late Tuesday, the ministry’s account is viewable, though the last message published there is dated August, 5.
The tweet which led to the suspension is preceded by a plaque saying that it “violated the Twitter Rules on sharing false or misleading info that might bring harm to crisis-affected populations.” The platform noted, however, that it had chosen to preserve the message “for accountability purposes.”
⚡️ Russian MoD unveils new data on military and biological activities of the US and its allies in Ukraine and elsewhere in light of new information. ❗️We are considering the possibility that the #USAID was involved in emergence of #COVID19 🔗 https://t.co/5tigUP3PWmpic.twitter.com/ZpNa7fLLG1— MFA Russia 🇷🇺 (@mfa_russia) August 4, 2022
Following the start of Russia’s offensive against Ukraine in late February, Russian authorities have repeatedly claimed that they have evidence pointing to the existence of US secret biolaboratories in the eastern European nation. According to Moscow, the researchers had been experimenting with dangerous pathogens there, among other things.
The US and Ukraine have consistently denied the allegations.
In March, the Russian government blocked Twitter in the country, accusing it of spreading “fakes” about its military campaign.