- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 2, 2016

A Twitter parody account poking fun at Russian President Vladimir Putin was reinstated Wednesday after being briefly suspended from the social networking service this week without explanation.

Following the two-day moratorium, the creator of the popular “DarthPutinKGB” parody account accused the Russian Foreign Ministry of pressuring Twitter into silencing the account during an interview with the Moscow Times.

“I think that they cannot take being laughed at,” the anonymous creator told the newspaper Wednesday. “They know all this bull[expletive] after ‘those are not Russian troops’ and ‘Euromaidan was a CIA coup’ is just that — bull[expletive]. So given that they throw millions at the message and still get mistaken for a parody, it’s a tough situation.”

“No sensible person could read my bio and think it is really the president of Russia. Anyone who can’t see that is being willfully stupid,” the creator told Radio Free Europe.

The fake Putin account was launched in late 2012 and had amassed more than 50,000 followers before being suddenly shutdown this week alongside similar, less popular accounts that take aim at Russian policy. No reason or warning was given by Twitter with regards to the suspensions, the Moscow Times reported.

Twitter has refused to comment on individual account, citing privacy and security reasons.

“When we receive a valid impersonation or trademark report about an account that violates our parody policy, we temporarily suspend the account and may give the user the opportunity to come into compliance,” a Twitter representative told The Atlantic.

Prior to this week’s suspension, however, the spoof Putin account and a similar one targeting Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov appeared to be largely in compliance with Twitter’s parody rules with one minor exception. While Twitter’s policies permit users to create parody accounts, the account name must not be identical to that of the person being parodied. Those two accounts bore the names “Vladimir Putin” and “Sergey Lavrov” before being suspended, and have since been updated to “Darth Putin” and “Soviet Sergey,” respectively.

“Now that I’m back, I’d like to point out that Twitter told me to change my name,” the person behind the fake foreign minister account tweeted upon their return to the platform. “See if you can find parody Merkel & Bill Murray.”

Sova, a Moscow-based human rights group, said last month that at least 54 people have been imprisoned across Russia during the last year for “hate speech” charges, the likes of which largely stemmed from either sharing or posting content on social media, CBS News reported. 

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