Human communication

Russia steps up censorship campaign and pressures tech giants

On Feb. 16, a Roskomnadzor official said companies that fail to comply by the end of the month will face penalties. In addition to fines and possible shutdowns or slowdowns, penalties could disrupt ad sales, search engine operations, data collection, and payments, as required by law.

“For companies that have not started the ‘disembarkation’ procedure, we will consider the issue of the application of the measures before the end of this month,” Vadim Subbotin, deputy director of Roskomnadzor, told the Russian parliament, according to Russian media.

Human rights and free speech groups have said they are disappointed that some of the tech companies, often seen in Russia as less beholden to the government, are complying with the law without public protest.

“The ulterior motive behind passing the D-Day Act is to create legal grounds for extensive online censorship by silencing remaining opposition voices and threatening freedom of expression online,” Joanna Szymanska, an expert on Russian internet censorship efforts, told civil society Article 19. London-based social group.

Mr. Chikov, who has represented companies such as Telegram in cases against the Russian government, said he met with Facebook last year to discuss its policies in Russia. Facebook executives have sought advice on whether to pull out of Russia, he said, including cutting off access to Facebook and Instagram. Instead, the company complied with the laws.

Mr. Chikov urged tech companies to speak out against Russian demands, even if it results in a ban, to set a broader precedent in the fight against censorship.

“There have been times when big tech companies have been leaders not only in terms of technology, but also in civil liberties and freedom of expression and privacy,” he said. “Now they behave more like large transnational corporations securing their business interests.”

Anton Troyanovsky and Oleg Matsnev contributed report.