Tech giants Google and Meta are among several internet companies facing possible punishment by Russian authorities after they failed to open local offices and take other measures required by a communications law, according to a report by Reuters.
Legislation signed by President Vladimir Putin in 2021 obliges foreign social media companies with more than 500,000 daily users to open local offices or face severe restrictions like being completely banned from operating in Russia.
In November, state communications regulator Roskomnadzor named 13 companies it wanted to open a physical office in Russia. Last month it announced it would begin imposing restrictions by the end of February.
However, only a handful of companies have so far complied, and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the subsequent severe sanctions and other economic measures imposed on the country mean it is highly unlikely they will now.
The new rules also require companies to register with Roskomnadzor and to create a system for receiving complaints by users.
Two companies that had fully complied with the rules before the invasion are Apple and Spotify, while on Monday Roskomnadzor’s website also showed retail company Rakuten Group Inc.’s messaging service Viber had also completed the required steps.
Several companies have completed at least one step but failed to establish an office or legal entity in Russia. These include Google and Meta themselves, as well as Twitter, Tiktok and Zoom, according to a Russian Government website.
In January, Roskomnadzor announced it would begin banning companies that refused to comply from selling ads in Russia. It has previously said that restricting access to the targeted services would be a last resort, and that other penalties could include limiting data collection and the transfer of money.
The regulations are part of a broader campaign for control of the internet that critics say endangers the freedom of both individuals and corporations. Authorities in Russia have issued small fines to social media companies in the last year for ignoring their demands to censor anti-government activists or information.
In recent days, Russia has restricted access to Facebook after the site began censoring state news media pages, including that of Russia Today (RT) which critics say spread fake news and propaganda.
Russia, which has a population of around 144 million, had almost 51 million Instagram users and 7.5 million Facebook users as of November 2021, according to research agency Insider Intelligence.
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