Apple and other US technology companies could be forced to open offices in Russia or face punitive measures. It is believed that this measure by Russia is part of its effort to assert its “sovereignty” on the Internet.
Russian lawmakers passed legislation last week that requires foreign sites with more than half a million daily users in Russia to open a local branch or a Russian legal entity, reports Reuters:
“Websites that do not comply will be marked as incompatible on search engines, may be excluded from search engine results, and banned from advertising in Russia and for Russians, the parliament said on its website.”
The bill’s authors argue that the current lack of such a requirement allows foreign sites to remain formally outside Russia’s jurisdiction.
The legislation passed its third and final review in the country’s lower house of parliament and now needs to be passed by the upper house and made into law by President Vladimir Putin, which is widely expected to happen.
The latest measure is in line with several Russian government actions that allow state control over online content in the country to be even tighter. In 2017, Russia banned VPNs and other software that allow users to gain anonymous access to websites.
In 2019, Apple was forced by the country’s law that requires that citizens’ data be stored on local servers. And earlier this year, it was forced to show iOS users across the country a list of suggested apps created by Russian developers when setting up a new device.
Russia also targets apps and services more directly if it understands that they violate local digital laws. For example, Russia tried to ban the Telegram encrypted messaging application after it refused to comply with requests to hand over encryption keys that would allow access to users’ data.
More recently, last March, Russia intentionally cut Twitter’s Internet traffic as a punishment for not deleting what it considered to be “banned content”.