The Russian government is threatening to block the world’s top social media companies – Facebook, Google and Twitter – if they violate that nation’s strict new Internet regulations. The companies also face fines if they do not cooperate.
Why? Well this is basically a free speech issue as the Russian government tries to block anonymous blogging that many users engage in through the three companies’ services.
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Russian authorities do not like anonymous bloggers. They want to control any outlet for dissent in their country. This is because they have seen how social media has been used by political opponents in countries around the world. This was especially so in the so called Arab Spring a few years ago.
This is why it passed new tough regulations last year which require bloggers and people who post on Twitter to reveal their true identities. The new law gives Russian regulators the authority to shut down web sites there if they post information by dissidents about protests which did not receive formal government sanction.
Twitter, Facebook and Google will need to provide the Russians with all of the information that they have about local bloggers who have more than 3, 000 followers if they wish to avoid sanctions. These can include fines of up to $10, 000 per offense and suspension of their activities for up to 30 days.
The director of Russia’s communications oversight agency sent all three companies a letter this week threatening action against them if they do not comply with the law. Its spokesman Vadim Ampelonsky told Reuters, “In our letters we regularly remind (companies) of the consequences of violating the legislation.”
“We realize they are registered under U.S. jurisdiction. But I think in this case they should demonstrate equal respect to national legislation. If the companies do not pay more attention to Russian government requests for data, we will need to apply sanctions, ” he added.
Google said that it complies with all legal requests made by governments and that it has responded to 5% of 134 such requests made by Russia in the second half of 2014.
Twitter said that it had rejected 108 Russian government requests in the same period.