RUSSIALINK: “Putin signs into law bill on ‘grounding’ Google, Facebook, other IT giants in Russia” – Interfax

Montage of Instagram, Twitter and Facebook Logos, adapted from image at nps.gov

MOSCOW. July 1 (Interfax) – Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed into law a bill compelling major foreign IT companies working with Russian audiences to open fully-fledged offices in Russia.

The document was published on the official web portal for legal information on Thursday.

The law compels foreign IT companies with a daily Russian audience exceeding 500,000 to open fully-fledged offices (branches) in Russia that can be held liable for the IT giants’ violations of Russian laws, interact with the Russian authorities, and restrict access to information violating Russian laws in Russian territory.

All foreign owners of websites, information systems, and software will be compelled to open a branch, an office, or a legal entity in Russia if they meet one of four criteria: they disseminate information in Russian or languages of the peoples of Russia, they provide advertising aimed at a Russian audience, they process Russian users’ data, or they receive money from Russian citizens and legal entities.

Such companies will be compelled to register an account on the official website of the Federal Service for Supervision of Communications, Information Technology, and Mass Media (Roskomnadzor) and to publish an electronic form on their website for Russian citizens and organizations to provide feedback consistent with the requirements set by Roskomnadzor.

The requirements will apply to the providers of hosting services, messenger services, operators of advertising systems, and “organizers of the dissemination of information” on the Internet.

The relevant services will be compelled to install “one of the programs offered” by Roskomnadzor to count how many Russian users they have.

The Roskomnadzor website will be keeping a list of “foreign entities conducting online activity in Russian territory” to contain information about the compliance of Internet resource owners with the requirements and sanctions for their violations, such as a ban on advertising those resources, placing Russian advertisements on the websites of violators, and money transfers.

The web resource owner will be compelled to submit a relevant statement to Roskomnadzor within a day of the moment of the account’s registration. By demand of Roskomnadzor, they will also be compelled to present “information required for the list” within ten days of the day of receiving the enquiry.

The web resource owner may be excluded from the list at its request if the daily Russian audience of the resource keeps below 500,000 for three months. Whenever such traffic persists for six months, Roskomnadzor can exclude the information from the list in such cases without request.

The law envisages a number of “measures of compulsion” against owners of foreign web resources, from informing Russian users about the violation of the law to their complete blocking in Russia.

Search engine operators will be compelled to inform Russians about their noncompliance with Russian laws at Roskomnadzor’s demand. Roskomnadzor will set the requirements for the content of such messages. The operators will be compelled to begin and stop disseminating such information within a day of the moment they are contacted by Roskomnadzor.

At the request of Roskomnadzor, search engines may stop delivering search results to users. Search engine operators will begin or stop complying with this demand within a day of its receipt.

Most “measures of compulsion” will take effect and stop upon the appearance of relevant announcements on the list of foreign entities engaged in online activity in Russian territory available on the Roskomnadzor website.

The violators will be prohibited from advertising themselves in Russia or hosting advertisements addressed to Russians irrespective of the owner of those advertisements.

In the event of violations, Roskomnadzor may include the foreign entity on the list of operators prohibited from transferring and receiving payments. In the end, banks, payment agents, communications operators, and postal services will be prohibited from transferring funds to such foreign entities. Should Roskomnadzor detect money transfers in the activity of a foreign supplier of payment services, information about this supplier will be included on a separate list to be kept in coordination with the Central Bank.

Roskomnadzor is also endowed with the right to act via designated intermediaries in order to confirm the fact of a transfer of funds in favor of a blacklisted foreign entity. The information will be directed to the Central Bank, which will respond to such actions.

Foreign entities may be prohibited from transborder sharing of the personal data of Russian users. In that case, Russian state and municipal authorities, individuals, and legal entities will not be allowed to provide them with such information.

There is yet another possible penalty – partial or complete blocking of the violator’s operations in Russian territory consistent with Part 5.1 Article 46 of the Law on Communication. Roskomnadzor should begin or stop using relevant “technical means of threat deterrence” within a day of the moment the decision is made.

Roskomnadzor will be allowed to apply the strictest “measures of compulsion” only in certain cases. For instance, a ban on delivering search results, gathering and carrying out transborder transfers of the personal data of Russian users, and partial or full blocking of the resource are permissible only if a foreign entity does not meet the requirement to open a Russian office, register an account on the Roskomnadzor website, and publish a feedback form within 30 days of receiving the relevant notice from the agency, as well as in the event of noncompliance with the regulations on storing the personal data of Russian users in Russian territory.

The rest of the sanctions – notification of users about a violation of Russian laws, a ban on advertising the violators and placing advertisements on their websites, and restrictions on money transfers and acceptance of payments from Russian individuals and legal entities – can be imposed in the case of a violation of the norms introduced by the legislation. The law does not set any additional conditions.

The amendments submitted by the second reading of the initiative say that the “measures of compulsion” could apply, in particular, to foreign entities that fail to provide information to the system monitoring online advertising activities.

The law compels advertisers, advertising system operators, and intermediaries which place advertisements targeting Russian users on the Internet to provide information about themselves and their materials.

The law takes effect on the day of its official publishing, expect for the norm that compels companies to open fully-fledged offices. This norm will take effect on January 1, 2022.

A group of members of the State Duma Committee on Information Policy, Information Technologies, and Communication led by Committee Chairman Alexander Khinshtein and Federation Council member Alexei Pushkov submitted the bill to the State Duma in May.

Khinshtein said earlier that the law might apply not only to search engines (Google, Bing), social networks (Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Twitter ), video hosting services (YouTube, Twitch), and messengers and mailing services (from Telegram to Gmail), but also to hosting service providers (including Amazon), online trade services (including Aliexpress, iHerb and Ikea), and Wikipedia.

All 20 web resources that may fall under the law were invited to discuss the initiative in the first reading at a meeting of the State Duma Committee on Information Policy, Information Technologies, and Communication on May 28, but only three of them, Aliexpress, iHerb, and Wikipedia, attended the meeting.

[article also appeared at interfax.com/newsroom/top-stories/72163/]