WTF?! When Russia’s Roskomnadzor agency said they had begun “administrative proceedings” against Facebook and Twitter back in January, a $46.64 fine each wasn’t exactly what anyone was expecting. While it could be considered a warning, it’s still laughable from an agency that banned LinkedIn and controls the nation’s ISPs and VPNs.
Since late 2015 all companies that store or process data about Russian citizens have been required by law to do so in Russia. The issue is that the data must be made available to the Russian government as well. In 2016, LinkedIn was banned in Russia for failure to comply, without being given a chance to negotiate. In February, Apple began storing their data in Russia after they were threatened to a similar fate.
Last week and yesterday, Twitter and Facebook, respectively, were hit with a 3,000 ruble fine after Roskomnadzor took them to court, reports Russian news site Interfax. It was the minimum fine the court could deliver. Neither company chose to appear in court to defend themselves, probably because the employees’ wages would be larger than the fine.
Facebook, despite all their issues with user data and privacy protection, have continuously ignored pressure in order to protect their users (or if you’re more cynical, to avoid paying for servers in Russia). Twitter actually agreed to comply with the law in mid-2017, but clearly, they haven’t.
It’s unclear why Roskomnadzor is fining the companies for such miniscule amount. Even if it is the mandatory first step in a longer process, they could have chosen to fine them enough to get their attention. They’ve clearly got a long-term plan, but we’ll have to wait and see if the endgame is a total ban of western social media or the surrender of user data to the Russian government.