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Russia Media Regulator Threatens Facebook, Twitter

The Russian media regulatory agency, Roskomnadzor, has stepped up its legal scrutiny of Facebook and Twitter, alleging that the two social media giants have run afoul of the country’s tighter personal data laws, the agency’s chief, Alexander Zharov, told the Russian news agency Interfax.

This move comes a week after Facebook removed more than 500 Russian-linked pages, groups and accounts which it said were “engaged in coordinated inauthentic behavior.” It was the latest in a series of measures the American company has taken to stop the proliferation of fake accounts, following revelations of how Facebook and other social media platforms were exploited to influence the 2016 US election.

Last month, the same Russian media regulator said it would investigate the BBC after a censure by U.K. authorities about what it said was biased coverage by Russian broadcaster RT. The Kremlin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said the Russian review was “certainly” connected to the British government’s policy.

Roskomnadzor, the media regulator, contacted Facebook and Twitter on December 17th, giving them 30 days to explain where the data is stored. Both companies replied but failed to provide any information on when they are planning to move their databases of users to Russia, Zharov told Interfax on Monday.

During the last five years, Russia has tightened its own Internet and data privacy laws, adding requirements for search engines to censor results and for messaging apps to share their encryption keys. The laws also require Internet companies to store and process personal data of Russian citizens on servers located in Russia.

Zharov’s agency said in a statement released to Russian media that it would begin “administrative proceedings” against the two American companies over their failure to provide adequate answers about their compliance with the new laws.

Companies not complying with new digital privacy laws in Russia face penalties of 5,000 rubles ($76), and have six months to come into compliance. Russia is working on a legislation to be able to fine foreign companies 1 percent of its annual revenue in Russia, Reuters reported earlier this year.

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