Russia is cracking down on foreign tech firms, here’s why


Ahead of Russia’s Sept. 17-19 parliamentary vote, foreign tech companies received a threat that made it clear that there will be sizeable fines if they fail to delete content Moscow doesn’t approve of.

As cited by Reuters, Russia’s governmental officials have pointed the finger at foreign firms, accusing them of meddling with their efforts to block virtual private networks (VPNs) and online resources linked to jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny.

Alexei Navalny, the lawyer who’s known for his strong opposition against Russia’s president Vladimir Putin and his government, was sentenced to three and a half years in prison earlier this year for going against probation terms in a 2014 embezzlement case.

Now, it’s not just Navalny who’s taking the hit.  A long-running issue in regard to banned content is on set to move up a notch as Vadim Subbotin, deputy head of state communications regulator Roskomnadzor, indicated large fines will be issued.

“We will now consider applying turnover fines on those companies that systematically violate Roskomnadzor’s demands,” Subbotin said, according to the Interfax news agency.

In fact, Russia has already begun issuing these fines. On Tuesday, Facebook and Twitter were the first social media firms to receive a sizable fine for not deleting banned content in Moscow.

According to an official telegram channel, Facebook received five fines, adding up the fine to $288,000, while Twitter received a $68,000 fine.

Subbotin also noted that Google is one of the tech firms at risk of joining Facebook and Twitter.

Reuters explained that Russia has all the capabilities of enforcing the new law, as Roskomnadzor has seen success in slowing down the speed of Twitter since March, shutting down VPN providers, as well blocking important domain name system (DNS) services from operating for multiple hours.