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Uzbekistan restricts access to several social media sites

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Uzbekistan’s communications regulator has restricted access to multiple social media websites for violating personal data protection laws.

O’zkomnazorat announced the restrictions on July 2nd, without mentioning which social media sites are covered by the regulation.

Internet users in the most populous country in Central Asia, however, reported disruptions on Twitter, TikTok, VKontakte and Skype. In particular, the restrictions should be a throttling or a reduced speed when using the networks.

O’zkomnazorat said social media websites had violated a new data protection law, which came into force in April, requiring internet companies to store the personal information of Uzbek users on servers in the country.

The regulatory authority announced that the use of social networks would be “restricted in accordance with the established procedure until the deficiencies identified have been remedied.”

For the past few weeks, O’zkomnazorat has Warnings issued to Twitter, Russia’s VKontakte, Twitter, Tencents We Chat, TikTok owner ByteDance and Microsoft’s Skype over Violations of the Data Protection Act.

The latest information restrictions in Uzbekistan come as the authoritarian state prepares for presidential elections in October, in which President Shavkat Mirziyoev is almost certain to win another term.

Before the election, the authorities tightened the rules on the Internet and increased the pressure on journalists and bloggers.

In March, changes in communications laws criminalized insulting or defaming the President online and inciting “mass unrest” online.

Since taking office after the death of his authoritarian predecessor Islam Karimov in 2016, Mirziyoev has positioned himself as a reformer, freeing political prisoners and opening up his country to his neighbors and the outside world.

Human rights groups say the reforms did not go far enough.

With coverage of the Russian and Uzbek services from RFE / RL
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