Twitter has temporarily frozen the official English-language account of the Russian Foreign Ministry for a period seven days, reportedly for an August 4th tweet blaming the United States for the coronavirus pandemic.
The offending tweet stated that “the U.S. and its allies in Ukraine and elsewhere” might be “involved” in the “emergence of COVID-19.” A Tuesday statement from the Kremlin condemned the Twitter crackdown as but another attempt to censor the Russian government perspective.
Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova slammed the move as “another clumsy attempt to shut us up” while saying Russia’s assertion was made based on “documents and fresh data” – but that the US social media company doesn’t have the competence to review and judge it.
The initial accusation particularly focused on the alleged actions of the US Agency for International Development, or USAID, under director Samantha Power.
While the tweet is still visible online, a warning label has been added by Twitter stating that it violated its rules on “sharing false or misleading info that might bring harm to crisis-affected populations.”
The last tweet that the verified Russian MFA account sent was Aug. 4 – thus the account has likely been blocked and unable to tweet since then.
More broadly this follows the US and European Union banning Russian state TV networks, particularly the international news channels RT and Sputnik – actions taken by YouTube as well.
This has occurred as communications between Moscow and Western governments have broken down as well, and in many cases has involved the tit-for-tat expulsion of diplomats. In general, the atmosphere has become such that it’s harder for journalists and/or much of the Western public to accurately gauge the Kremlin perspective or statements on any given issue.
The @mfa-russia account is likely to go active again within the coming days, given it seems its already spent several days under the punitive Twitter suspension.