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Russia Ramps Up Its Censorship Campaign, Putting Pressure On Tech Behemoths.

OnZine Articles

ByOnZine Articles

Mar 1, 2022
Russia Ramps Up Its Censorship Campaign, Putting Pressure On Tech Behemoths.

As Russia attacks Ukraine, authorities in Moscow are stepping up their domestic censorship campaign by squeezing some of the world’s largest technology companies.

On February 16, Russian authorities issued a warning to Google, Meta, Apple, Twitter, TikTok, and other companies that they had until the end of the month to comply with a new law requiring them to establish legal entities in the country. According to legal experts and civil society groups, the so-called landing law makes companies and their employees more vulnerable to Russia’s legal system and the demands of government censors.

The situation puts tech companies in a bind, as they are torn between their public support for free expression and privacy and their work in authoritarian countries.

It has forced them to choose between keeping their services available in Russia and leaving entirely.

Ukrainian officials and US lawmakers are increasingly putting pressure on the companies to limit their involvement in Russia. Ukraine’s vice president has requested that Apple, Google, Netflix, and Meta restrict access to their services within Russia. Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, wrote to Meta, Reddit, Telegram, and others, urging them not to allow Russian entities to sow confusion about the war on their platforms. Twitter, which had previously stated that it was pausing ads in Ukraine and Russia, announced on Saturday that its service was also being restricted for some Russians.

On Sunday, Roskomnadzor demanded that Google lift restrictions on some Russian media outlets, claiming that the company had limited its ability to profit from YouTube advertising.

According to Pavel Chikov, a human rights lawyer in Russia who specializes in censorship cases, the crackdown “is an attempt by the Russian government to increase control over these companies and the content online in Russia.” “The Russian government will gradually persuade them to go further down this road.”

In the aftermath of sanctions aimed at economically isolating Russia, Western companies and organizations are only now beginning to sort out their ties with the country. Energy companies are concerned about the possibility of reduced oil and natural gas supplies.

Russian and Ukrainian wheat may be in short supply, posing a threat to food producers. Even European soccer clubs have dropped Russian company sponsorships, with a major championship match shifting from St. Petersburg to Paris.

Chikov, who has represented companies such as Telegram in cases against the Russian government, said last year that he met with Facebook to discuss its Russian policies. According to him, Facebook executives sought advice on whether to withdraw from Russia, including cutting off access to Facebook and Instagram. Instead, the company followed the rules.

Chikov urged tech companies to speak out against Russian demands, even if it meant facing a ban, in order to set a larger precedent in the fight against censorship.

“There have been times when the big tech companies were leaders not only in terms of technology, but also in terms of civil liberties, freedom of expression, and privacy,” he said. “They now act more like large transnational corporations protecting their business interests.”

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OnZine Articles main author - Max Haydon

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