Russian authorities continue to clamp down on foreign (mainly American) technology giants as part of its ‘sovereign Internet’ campaign.

The state Duma (Russia’s parliament) on Thursday passed legislation that would oblige US tech giants to open local offices in Russia by January 2022. Failure to due so will result in “punitive measures”, Tass reported.

Russia has placed a number of obligations on foreign firms operating within its borders for years now. As far back as 2014 for example, the country required foreign IT giants to store the personal data of Russian citizens on servers located in Russia itself.

Local offices

This forced firms such as Apple, Twitter and many others to place their servers within reach of Russian authorities.

But now it seems highly likely these firms will soon also have to open local offices in the country, after Tass reported that twenty ‘foreign’ platforms have so far been identified as subject to this new legislation.

It reported the State Duma, the lower house of the Russian legislature, passed in the third reading the draft law binding major foreign IT companies to open branches or representative offices in Russia.

It seems that any foreign platform with a daily audience of over 500,000 Russian users will be subject to this local office requirement from 1 January 2022.

The legislation also reportedly includes enforcement measures.

The most lenient punishment will simply see Russia authorities informing users of violations by the platform.

Other punitive action could see Russian authorities banning advertising of the platform, halting payments to it, and gathering cross-border transmission of personal data of Russian nationals.

An extreme sanction will be the partial or complete blocking of the violating platform.

American giants

So which companies are likely to be affected?

Well, twenty firms have been identified so far, including social networking firms such as Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, and Twitter.

Video hosting providers such as YouTube and Twitch.tv have also been identified; as have messenging services such as WhatsApp, Telegram, Viber, and Gmail; search engines such as Google and Bing.com; hosting providers Amazon, Digital Ocean, Cloudflare, and GoDaddy; online commerce such as Aliexpress.com, Ikea.com, and Iherb.com, as well as Wikipedia.org.

The list can be revised later on, Tass reported.

Russia has for years being developing the ability to cut its Internet off from rest of the world, as part of its so called ‘sovereign Internet’ campaign.

The country ‘successfully tested’ a country-wide alternative to the global internet in December 2019, but delayed another test in March 2020 just as the Coronavirus pandemic gathered pace around the world.

Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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