Russia said Friday that TikTok removed some of the so-called illegal posts promoting weekend protests in an attempt to secure the release of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny.
It has also opened criminal proceedings against Navalny’s supporters.
Posts promoting Navalny and protests slated for Saturday have been viewed more than 300 million times on TikTok, the Chinese video-sharing app, since he was jailed this week after being jailed for the first time since being poisoned flown back to Russia by a military was nerve agent.
Unimpressed by official warnings ahead of the rallies, young Russians have posted exuberant videos paying tribute to Navalny and mocking President Vladimir Putin as a prelude to the planned demonstrations.
“Respect for the schoolchildren who, according to my lawyer, have ‘devastated TikTok’,” said Navalny in a message from his lawyer posted on Instagram on Friday.
Russian investigators said they launched criminal proceedings to induce minors to engage in illegal acts that could endanger their safety.
Citing the COVID-19 risks, they said mass public events banned in Moscow because of the pandemic pose a real health risk.
Communications watchdog Roskomnadzor, who threatened to punish social platforms for protest-related content, said TikTok had deleted 38% of posts it thought were illegal as of Friday. However, it added that new appeals to the Russians were still taking to the streets.
Roskomnadzor said that TikTok – which had no immediate comment – was the platform where users were most active in calling for protests in support of Navalny.
Roskomnadzor said YouTube deleted 50% of the posts that the regulator said had urged minors to protest, and Instagram deleted 17% of those posts.
The Kremlin said the measures taken by Roskomnadzor were “absolutely justified”.
Students across Russia have posted videos of themselves depicting Putin portraits on classroom walls and exchanging images of a grinning Navalny.
Other users have given fun practical advice on how to avoid being arrested during the protests, such as using an American accent to impersonate a foreign tourist.
“If everything goes bad, say ‘I’ll call my lawyer!” TikTok user Neurolera, whose video has more than 200,000 views, said on a North American train.
Political scientist Abbas Gallyamov, a former Kremlin speechwriter, told Reuters that he expected a significant number of TikTok users to take to the streets.
“When young people become interested in politics, they are always more radical and do not appreciate the status quo as much as older groups,” he said.
(Except for the headline, this story was not edited by GossipMantri staff and published from a syndicated feed.)