Russia Intensifies Censorship Campaign, Pressuring Tech Giants

On Feb. 16, a Roskomnadzor official mentioned firms that didn’t comply by the top of the month would face penalties. Along with fines and attainable shutdowns or slowdowns, the penalties might disrupt advert gross sales, search engine operations, information assortment and funds, in response to the regulation.

“For these firms that haven’t began the process for ‘touchdown’ we are going to take into account the difficulty of making use of measures earlier than the top of this month,” Vadim Subbotin, deputy head of Roskomnadzor, instructed the Russian Parliament, in response to Russian media.

Human-rights and free-speech teams mentioned they had been upset that a few of the tech firms, usually considered inside Russia as much less beholden to the federal government, had been complying with the regulation with out public protest.

“The ulterior motive behind the adoption of the touchdown regulation is to create authorized grounds for intensive on-line censorship by silencing remaining opposition voices and threatening freedom of expression on-line,” mentioned Joanna Szymanska, an professional on Russian web censorship efforts at Article 19, a civil society group based mostly in London.

Mr. Chikov, who has represented firms together with Telegram in instances in opposition to the Russian authorities, mentioned he met with Fb final yr to debate its Russia insurance policies. Fb executives sought recommendation on whether or not to drag out of Russia, he mentioned, together with chopping off entry to Fb and Instagram. The corporate complied with the legal guidelines as an alternative.

Mr. Chikov urged the tech firms to talk out in opposition to the Russian calls for, even when it leads to a ban, to set a wider precedent about combating censorship.

“There have been occasions when the massive tech firms have been leaders by way of not solely know-how but additionally in civil liberties and freedom of expression and privateness,” he mentioned. “Now they behave extra like huge transnational companies securing their enterprise pursuits.”

Anton Troianovski and Oleg Matsnev contributed reporting.

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