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20 Jan, 2021 13:34

Russian parliament proposes convening international organizations to tackle US tech-giant-driven threat to free speech

Russian parliament proposes convening international organizations to tackle US tech-giant-driven threat to free speech

As Washington braces for the most tense handover of power in modern history, the speaker of Russia’s parliament has called for an inquiry into a series of perceived threats to free speech, amid the fallout from the US election.

Vyacheslav Volodin told lawmakers on Tuesday that the parliamentary Foreign Affairs Committee should now begin proposals to work with the global community to better understand a recent rise in online censorship. “Stop burying your heads in the sand as if nothing is happening,” he said, “we need to begin this work and do everything possible to ensure that international organizations finally wake up from their hibernation.”

His call came amid a fiery speech to mark the opening of the parliamentary session, in which he slammed the “lawlessness on the part of American social networks” and insisted that the same must not happen in Russia. Volodin added that the EU has also been silent on recent threats to free speech, while pointing the finger at alleged human rights abuses in Ukraine, Venezuela, Belarus and Hong Kong.

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"The EU should start with itself. Stop shooting people with rubber bullets, gassing them, spraying them with water in winter. In general, it all resembles the kind of torture seen during World War II," the politician claimed.

Russia has previously expressed concern over a series of decisions that, its politicians say, limit access to information in cyberspace. Platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram moved to block or suspend US President Donald Trump over fears of incitement to violence in the wake of the storming of the Capitol building in Washington, DC by his supporters.

Responding to the news, the spokeswoman for Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Maria Zakharova, told reporters that the decision “could be compared to a nuclear blast in cyberspace.” ”It has been a blow to the democratic values professed by the West,” she added. The founder of the Russian-made Telegram messaging service, Pavel Durov, also warned that an “Apple-Google duopoly” poses a much greater threat of censorship than even the biggest social media companies, since it could “completely restrict which apps you use.”

The Parler social network, which bills itself as a ‘pro-free speech platform,’ was shut off by Amazon, which had provided its hosting services, over allegations that it allowed calls for violence and glorification of the attack on the US Capitol. It has since gone back online, reportedly after a deal with a Russian-owned tech company.

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