Foreign Tech Firms without Russian Offices Face Advertising Ban Within Weeks

Russia warned on Wednesday it would begin imposing advertising bans on large foreign technology companies that do not have official representation in the country by March, as Moscow advances efforts to exert greater control over the internet.

Russian legislation has obliged foreign social media giants with more than 500,000 daily users to open offices in Russia since July, 2021. In November, state communications regulator Roskomnadzor listed 13 companies it wanted to set up officially or possibly face outright bans.

Since then, only Apple and Spotify have fulfilled all three requirements – registering an account with Roskomnadzor, giving users a way to communicate directly with the company, and setting up a representative office.

Other companies on the list include Alphabet’s Google, Meta Platforms, Twitter, TikTok and messaging app Telegram, all of which Russia fined last year for failing to delete content it deems illegal.

Roskomnadzor chief Vadim Subbotin on Wednesday told the State Duma’s information policy and IT committee that his agency was ready to respond with economic and technological measures.

He said the first sanctions against “evaders” would be imposed by the end of February, starting with bans on advertising, with the Federal Antimonopoly Service and Bank of Russia ready to implement these bans in practice.

Sergei Sokolov, TikTok’s director of government relations for Eastern Europe, said the company has requested time to complete the process.

“We have already launched this process internally and will create a legal entity, but this process has not been simple and is quite lengthy,” Interfax quoted Sokolov as saying.

The pressure is part of a wider campaign for internet control that critics say threatens individual and corporate freedom.

Some companies on Roskomnadzor’s list already have staff working in Russia and internet analysts have said the law does not clearly stipulate what is required of firms.

Roskomnadzor did not respond to a request for comment.

“We expect all foreign IT giants to comply with the requirements of Russian law without waiting for any sanctions,” said Alexander Khinshtein, head of the Duma committee.

Roskomnadzor said it was in dialogue with all companies listed, except for American video streaming service Twitch and messaging platform Discord, neither of which immediately replied to a request for comment.

Google, Meta, Twitter and Telegram had no immediate comment.