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X briefly bans Alexei Navalny’s widow Yulia Navalnaya account by mistake

Account restored again following international outcry

Andrew Griffin
Tuesday 20 February 2024 13:14 GMT
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Alexei Navalny’s widow Yulia Navalnaya on his death

X, formerly known as Twitter, briefly banned the account of Alexei Navalny’s widow.

Yulia Navalnaya set up her account on Monday, days after Mr Navalny’s death was announced. She has since used it to commit to holding Russian president Vladimir Putin to account.

On Tuesday afternoon, however, the account disappeared. It was replaced with a message indicating that it had been suspended because it had broken the site’s rules.

Yulia Nalanaya (AP)

The message, which appears whenever a user is banned from the site, does not give any information about which of X’s rules have been broken. It links out to a page that claims the rule are intended to allow “all people can participate in the public conversation freely and safely”, and which ban behaviour such as violent speech and harassment.

The final post on the account, before it was taken down, showed Mr Navalny’s mother, outside the penal colony in which her son had died, calling on Vladimir Putin to release his body. The video post appeared shortly before the account was taken down.

Around an hour later, the account appeared to have been restored and was available once again with all of its posts intact.

X did not immediately respond to a request for comment, only sending an automated message reading “Busy now, please check back later”. Mr Musk fired Twitter’s press team when he took over the company in 2022.

Mr Musk has instead used his own X account and those of his fans to announce new policies and decisions at the company. But after a flurry of activity on Monday night, he had not tweeted for four hours when Ms Navalnaya’s account was removed.

The Anti-Corruption Foundation, an organisation established by Mr Navalny, was one of a huge number of a X users calling on Elon Musk to explain the ban.

“Hey Elon Musk! Please explain exactly which rules were violated by @yulia_navalnaya,” it wrote on its X account.

Many of those critics pointed to Mr Musk’s avowed commitment to free speech, which he has made a central part of his marketing for X. Late last year, for instance, he had tweeted that “Free speech is the bedrock of democracy”.

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