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Media Regulator Says Twitter Will Comply With Law, Locate User Data In Russia

Twitter has not commented on the Russian media regulator's claim. (file photo)
Twitter has not commented on the Russian media regulator's claim. (file photo)

Russia's media regulator says Twitter has agreed to store some of its users' data inside Russia, a move that would comply with domestic law but stoke further fears about user privacy and surveillance.

The agency, known as Roskomnadzor, said on April 19 that Twitter is in the process of determining "what information about Russian citizens and organizations in commercial relations with Twitter in Russia can be stored in the Russian Federation."

"We expect we will be able to send this commercial data to Russia by the middle of 2018 and notify you of this at that time," the agency quoted a Twitter public policy and communications official, Sinead McSweeney, as saying.

The California-based company refused to comment.

The reported decision by Twitter comes two years after a law took effect requiring Russian and foreign companies to store data for customers who are Russian citizens on servers housed on Russian territory.

The law has sparked wide concerns among privacy advocates who feared it would further restrict speech in Russia, where the Internet has served as a freewheeling and largely unhindered forum for public debate, particularly compared with traditional media outlets that are state controlled.

The measure reflected a marked tightening of control over media and the Internet by the Kremlin. President Vladimir Putin has publicly called the Internet a "CIA project."

Regulators have also adopted increasingly strict regulations on bloggers, requiring them to register if they reach a certain threshold of readerships or followers.

Companies that don't comply with the new Russian law are to be included in a blacklist, under court order by Roskomnadzor, and subject to a fine of up to 300,000 rubles, or about $5,000.

Blocking Violators

Roskomnadzor can also order Internet providers to block access to violators.

Many of the world's biggest and best known Internet companies have taken a quiet approach in determining whether to comply with the law.

But Roskomnadzor in November ordered the professional social networking site, LinkedIn, to be blocked from Russian Internet service providers for not complying with the new regulations.

In Russia, authorities have also moved to outright censor some material deemed politically sensitive.

Late in March, the Russian Prosecutor-General's Office asked Roskomnadzor to block access to webpages and videos posted on YouTube, the popular blogging site Live Journal, and the social networking site VKontakte, that were promoting unauthorized political demonstrations tied to anticorruption crusader Aleksei Navalny.

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    Mike Eckel

    Mike Eckel is a senior correspondent reporting on political and economic developments in Russia, Ukraine, and around the former Soviet Union, as well as news involving cybercrime and espionage. He's reported on the ground on Russia's invasion of Ukraine, the wars in Chechnya and Georgia, and the 2004 Beslan hostage crisis, as well as the annexation of Crimea in 2014.

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