MOSCOW, January 1. /TASS/. The law “On the Activities of Foreign Persons in the Information and Telecommunication Network “Internet” on the Territory of the Russian Federation” has come into force. It obliges foreign Internet companies with a daily audience of over 500,000 users to open authorized representative offices in the Russian Federation. Russia’s mass media watchdog has already published the list of companies that must open offices in accordance with this law. The list includes Google (Google Play, YouTube, YouTube Music, Google Chat, Gmail), Apple (iCloud, App Store, Apple Music), Meta Platforms (Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp), Twitter, TikTok, Telegram, as well as Zoom, Viber, Spotify, Likeme Pte.Ltd. (Likee), Discord, Pinterest and Twitch.
Deputy Head of the Russian Federal Service for Supervision of Communications, Information Technology and Mass Media Vadim Subbotin explained to TASS that transferring authority to a Russian legal entity would lead to what would actually be Russian versions of the global services.
The regulator noted that it would show some leniency, not imposing administrative penalties starting right on January 1 against companies that failed to open representative offices on time, if they demonstrate that they are working towards this goal, Subbotin added. All major companies have administrative and financial possibilities to comply with the Russian legislation, he said.
Work in progress
Deputy Head of the State Duma (lower house) Committee on Informational Policy, Technologies and Communications Anton Gorelkin said in an interview with TASS that “large (IT companies) are undertaking [efforts to implement the law on localization], while small ones are not.”
The MP did not name those that are addressing the matter now, noting though that the issue is about those “interested in the Russian market.” Gorelkin pointed to the likelihood that the list of companies covered by the legislation will be expanded in the future. “Everybody remembers the unexpected boom of Clubhouse (social network – TASS), for example, even though it never reached 500,000. Nevertheless, the market for a new economy and the digital market are fluid, with trends changing faster than, say, in the commodity sector or in the engineering industry. Some still might just end up on that list,” he said.
The legislator also clarified that a key hallmark for being put on the list was the commercial activities of those companies on Russian soil. He noted that this was why Wikipedia had not been put on the list since it has no business in the country.
Chairman of the State Duma Committee on Information Policy, Information Technologies and Communications Alexander Khinshtein stated earlier that the committee intended to hold an expanded meeting with the participation of IT giants on implementing the localization law in early 2022.
The information policy committee shares the mass media watchdog’s stance, which has no plans to start imposing sanctions against IT giants that do not comply with those norms, starting January 1, Khinshtein emphasized. That said, the lawmaker expects Big Tech officials to start registering their representative offices and branches, thereby setting an example for the rest of the market players.
The legislator is certain that 2022 is going to be a decisive year for further building future relations between the Russian state and the Russian audience with the tech titans. He is also confident that corporations are interested in the Russian market, which is developing dynamically and quickly.
Gearing up for localization
On July 1, the bill “On the Activities of Foreign Persons in the Information and Telecommunication Network “Internet” on the Territory of the Russian Federation” was passed. Apart from the requirement to set up a subsidiary or a representative office of a Russian legal entity starting on January 1, the law imposes a number of obligations on foreign entities. In particular, they are to post a feedback form for Russian users on their websites, register a personal account on the website of the Russian Federal Service for Supervision of Communications, Information Technology and Mass Media in order to cooperate with the authorities, install a recommended visitor counter on the information resource (the list of recommended visitor counters has been defined by the watchdog). Foreign entities must also restrict access to information that violates Russia’s legislation.