The Russian government has prepared a strong offensive against 13 technology companies, most of them based in the United States, to try to increase control of activities in the country. According to Reuters, these large companies must open local offices by next year or they could be expelled.
Roskomnadzor, the Russian state agency responsible for monitoring and controlling the media in the country, has issued a warning to companies such as Alphabet (Google), Apple, Meta (Facebook), ByteDance (TikTok), Telegram and Twitter to take action or suffer the expected punishment in legislation, such as advertising restrictions, fines or even the permanent interruption of the service.
The move is based on a Russian law that went into effect in July and requires all social media companies with more than 500,000 active users daily to be forced to have local offices. The practice would be considered a protectionist measure by Moscow to promote domestic companies and force foreign ones to share user data.
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Uncertainty about legislation
Experts consulted by Reuters said that the regulation is vague and does not define the legal form of representation of the organization. But, according to Roskomnadzor’s clarification, in addition to local offices, foreign companies need to register accounts at the agency, provide assessment forms for Russian users, and limit access to “information that violates Russian law”.
On the other hand, social media companies fear that the establishment of branches on Russian soil will facilitate attempts to limit access or subject them to possible intervention by the government of Vladmir Putin. The country has even threatened to block foreign services that refuse to remove content considered illegal, such as those related to protests or pages critical of the Kremlin.
Just over a month ago, Apple was convicted in a multi-million dollar lawsuit on a monopoly charge. In July, Facebook and Telegram were fined for not removing content ordered by the Russian government.
In 2018, Russian authorities tried to block the use of Telegram in the country, which caused widespread internet unavailability. Since then, the situation has escalated and today there is a filtering of service providers in place, as well as severe criticism of alleged attempts by the Russian government to interfere in the companies.