Russia has ordered 13 foreign tech companies to officially have local representatives in the country by the end of 2021. State communications regulator Roskomnadzor said on Monday that if the named companies do not have Russian offices by within the stipulated time, it could lead to possible restrictions or even a ban.
This directive was made for companies to comply with a new law that took effect in July, which requires foreign tech giants with more than 500,000 daily users to open local offices. According to Roskomnadzor, some of the restrictions for companies that violate the law include advertising, data collection, and money transfer restrictions.
The companies listed include Apple, Google, Meta, Twitter, Telegram, and TikTok, all of which have been fined by the state this year for failing to delete illegal content. Some of the named companies, such as Google and Apple, have already set up Russian offices. Telegram was founded by Russian-born Pavel Durov but is an American-registered company with offices in Dubai.
The Kremlin has long tried to reign in social media firms as it attempts to exert tighter control over the internet. In September, Apple and Google were forced to remove opposition leader Alexei Navalny’s app from their platforms during Russia’s parliamentary election, with Apple going so far as to disable its Private Relay feature which hides IP addresses.
Karen Kazaryan, head of analysis firm Internet Research Institute, said that it was unclear what kind of representation exactly is required from the companies. “There is no explanation in the law, no clarification as to what the legal form of the organisation’s representation should be,” he said.
Aside from having representation, the companies will also need to open an account on Roskomnadzor’s website and have a feedback form for Russian users. The regulator also added that foreign firms need to limit access to information that violates local laws.