Putin Orders Twitter to Open Russian Office

Large social media companies that operate in Russia but have not opened an office there are to be harshly penalized under a new law.

Russian president Vladimir Putin signed a new piece of legislation on Thursday that requires foreign firms like Twitter and Facebook to maintain a physical presence in Russia or face the consequences. 

Companies that fail to comply with the new legislation could be banned from advertising and ordered to pay substantial financial penalties. 

The new law states: “A foreign entity, carrying out activities on the internet in Russia, is obliged to create a branch, open an office or establish a Russian legal entity."

Alexander Khinshtein, head of the information policy and IT committee at Russia’s lower house of parliament, said that the freshly signed law will be applicable to any social media company with 500,000 or more daily users residing in Russia. 

Russian media reports that around 20 foreign companies are likely to be impacted, including e-commerce and retail firms.

On his Telegram channel, Khinshtein wrote that the firms must register a personal account on the website of Russia's state communications regulator, Roskomnadzor. 

The new legislation comes just three months after Putin's government railed against Twitter over the company's handling of “child pornography, pro-narcotic and suicidal content” on its platform. 

Twitter, Telegram, Google, and Facebook have all been ordered to appear before Russian courts later this month to answer charges that they did not act swiftly enough to remove illegal content.

In the past, Russia has fined IT firms for moving too slowly to delete content it considers to be illegal. In May, the country took punitive action against Twitter, hitting the platform with a slow-down.

On Wednesday, a new case was opened in Russia against Alphabet subsidiary Google for breaching personal data legislation. Back in May, Roskomnadzor gave Google 24 hours to delete what it described as prohibited content or be fined. 

The Russian watchdog threatened to slow down the company's traffic in the country if it did not comply. Roskomnadzor also accused Google of censorship for allegedly deranking YouTube access to Russian media outlets, including RT and Sputnik.

What’s Hot on Infosecurity Magazine?