Russia's Twitter users no longer have access to @b0ltai, an account belonging to a hacker collective that has leaked several internal Kremlin documents to the Internet over the past seven months. The hacker group, which RuNet Echo profiled last month, has published stollen emails belonging to high-profile members of the Russian government, inside reports on the state of Russian politics, and the Kremlin's instructions to state-controlled TV news channels.
Asked to explain why Twitter removed Russians’ access to @b0ltai, a Twitter spokesperson told RuNet Echo, “We do not comment on individual accounts, for privacy and security reasons.” Elsewhere, however, Twitter has confirmed the takedown of @b0ltai for Russian users. Twitter is one of only two companies (the other being Google) to post actioned takedown orders to the Chilling Effects Clearinghouse, a project of EFF and several law schools, to promote transparency.
Dated July 25, Twitter logged a “Russian request to block [a] Twitter user,” attaching a letter from Russia's federal communications agency, Roscomnadzor. The letter cites a decision by a St. Petersburg court, banning b0ltai's blog and microblog in accordance with a lawsuit by an unnamed individual concerning “personal data.” Little is known about the lawsuit that resulted in b0ltai's blacklisting. According to Kommersant newspaper, neither the Russian courts nor Roscomnadzor has elaborated on the trial that banned from the Internet Russia's most infamous hackers.
While Twitter's “Country Withheld Content” policy does stipulate that the company may “reactively withhold access to certain content in a particular country from time to time,” if Twitter receives a “valid and properly scoped request from an authorized entity,” it is still very easy for Twitter users inside Russia to access @b0ltai. Indeed, Russians have been tweeting the circumvention instructions all day.
Внимание! Те,кто хочет видеть заблокированные в РФ твиттер-аккаунты(напр. @b0ltai ) в настройках поставьте любую страну кроме РФ и worldwide
— Roman Dobrokhotov (@Dobrokhotov) July 27, 2014
Attention! For those of you who want to view the Twitter accounts blocked inside Russia (for example, @b0ltai), just go into your account settings and change your country setting to anything but “Russia” or “worldwide.”
Toggling a user's country is just 3-clicks-deep in the Twitter account settings. For now, that's all it takes to defeat the Great Firewall of Russia.