Back in the summer, Russia passed a law stipulating that all websites with more than 500,000 daily visitors would be forced to open local offices in the country. This was framed at the time as a curb on the powers of social media giants, but the state communications regulator has now published a list of companies affected, and Apple is among the names.
The aim of the law, approved by the State Duma and signed by Vladimir Putin on 1 July, is to hold companies legally responsible for the content of their sites, which will make it more difficult to criticise the government or highlight human rights abuses.
The law is due to come into force on 1 January 2022. Reuters reports that tech companies such as Apple, Facebook, Google, TikTok and Twitter have been told they must open local offices before that date.
It’s not clear at this point what form the offices need to take. Reuters quotes Karen Kazaryan, head of the Internet Research Institute: “There is no explanation in the law, no clarification as to what the legal form of the organisation’s representation should be.”
Nevertheless, companies which fail to comply with the regulations could face restrictions on their ability to advertise and collect data, and might be prohibited from operating in the country entirely. In other words, refusing to do so could be a costly affair – considerably more costly than the £8.7m fine levied on Apple by Russia’s competition authority earlier this year.