March 10 (UPI) -- A Russian communications regulator said Wednesday it will slow the speeds of posting photos and videos to Twitter, over a complaint that the social media platform isn't removing content and misinformation that's barred by Russian law.
State media watchdog Roskomnadzor said it will slow the speeds for all cellphones and half of desktop computers in Russia and warned that Twitter could ultimately be blocked.
Vadim Subbotin, Russia's media and technology chief, said the slowdown won't affect messaging on Twitter.
Roskomnadzor said in its announcement Wednesday that about 3,200 posts with "prohibited information" have not been deleted by Twitter.
"Centralized response measures have been taken, namely, the primary slowdown of the service's speed," it said.
Last month, a new law took effect that requires social networks to identify and block prohibited content. It requires companies like Twitter to take immediate action to block access to the content.
Earlier this month, Roskomnadzor warned that Twitter could face fines for failing to remove posts related to suicide, child pornography and drugs.
Roskomnadzor said the action against Twitter is intended to "protect Russian citizens and force the Internet service to comply with Russian legislation."
The social media platform is used by about 3% of Russians, The Moscow Times reported.
The Twitter crackdown comes after widespread protests from activists over the poisoning and detention of opposition leader Alexei Navalny. The Biden administration ordered sanctions against Russia this month over Moscow's treatment of Navalny, who was poisoned with the Soviet-era nerve agent novichok last summer and spent months in hospital in Germany.
Roskomnadzor sued Twitter and four other social media companies on Tuesday for not deleting posts about the protests.
Cybersecurity expert Andrei Soldatov questioned Russia's technical capability and blamed outages at several government websites on the move to slow Twitter.
"What was meant to be partly a nationwide test of the Sovereign Runet infrastructure, partly a warning to global platforms, (and partly a soothing message to Putin getting emotional), failed on all fronts," Soldatov tweeted.
Government-run Internet provider Rostelecom attributed the disruptions to equipment problems.
Mikhail Klimarev, executive director of the Internet Protection Society, told The Moscow Times that other social media companies, including Facebook and Google, could face similar crackdowns.
"It makes sense from a government point of view to pressure Twitter first," he said. "It is relatively small but hyper-politicized in Russia."
Some experts argue that Moscow is using the Twitter crackdown to suppress opposition voices, many of which are expressed via the popular social platform.