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Russia will soon require foreign tech giants to open local offices: Report

Russia on Thursday passed legislation that obliges foreign tech giants to either set up a local branch or open a legal entity in the country by January 2022, Reuters reported. This legislation is part of Russia’s efforts at “internet sovereignty” and is targetted at foreign companies with more than half a million daily users in Russia, the report added. This is aimed at bringing US companies like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube under Russian jurisdiction.

Although the bill needs to be approved by the upper house of parliament and signed by President Vladimir Putin, this is widely expected to happen, the report stated. Companies that do not comply with these rules could be excluded from search results and banned from advertising and operating in Russia, the report added.

India’s IT Rules effectively demand the same

Russia has the company of India, which in February, through the IT Rules 2021, mandated social media intermediaries like Facebook, WhatsApp, and Instagram to have a physical contact address in India published on its website. In a recent letter sent to Twitter, the government clarified that this address should belong to the social media intermediary and not to another entity such as a law firm representing the company, effectively signalling that foreign companies operating in India must have local offices.

Russia doubling down on US tech companies

In recent months, Russia has been targetting multiple US tech companies. In March this year, the Russian internet regulator Roskomnadzor announced that access to Twitter will be slowed down in the country following what it says is the company’s inaction in taking down content inciting minors to self-harm or commit suicide. MediaNama reviewed some transparency filings by Twitter on Russian legal requests, and it appears that Twitter has actually been acting on legal requests from the country with some regularity. However, it seems that the content that Twitter is choosing not to take down has irked the Russian government.

In June, the country fined Facebook and Instagram millions of rubles for not taking down “prohibited” content online. Twitter too was fined for not complying with data localization requirements and not taking down content in accordance with orders in time.

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In April, Apple made concessions to Russia, showing iPhone users in the country a setup screen that allows them to automatically install apps that are officially sanctioned by the Russian government. The tech giant also complies with a 2014 law that requires any company handling the digital data of Russian citizens to store it on servers physically located in Russia.

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