Russia votes to force U.S. tech giants to open local offices

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Major tech companies like Apple must open offices in Russia by January 2022, lawmakers in the country have decided, in what could be a move to crack down on dissent and banned commentary online.

The vote on Thursday saw members of the Russian parliament pass legislation requiring foreign companies to either set up a local branch or open a Russian legal entity. Affected firms are those that serve more than half a million daily users from the country via their website, which would include Apple and most social networks and search engines.

While the legislation has passed through the lower house of parliament, it still has to be approved by the upper house and signed by President Vladimir Putin to be turned into a law. Reuters reports it is widely expected to pass through the upper house unscathed, and to be signed by Putin with no issues raised.

It is asserted by the bill’s authors that there is a need to create a local branch, otherwise foreign websites will be outside of Russia’s jurisdiction.

Websites and organizations that do not agree to the legislation and fail to set up a local office will face punitive measures, such as being designated as “non-compliant” on search engines, removed from search results entirely, or banned from advertising in the country.

The legislation is the latest attempt by the Russian government to assert its position on online matters and the tech industry.

Meanwhile, in 2019, Apple moved to comply with a 2014 law requiring data on citizens to be stored on local servers. It was believed by critics that the storage of user data on servers in Russia would open the data up to abuse.

In April 2021, Apple was forced to include a selection of government-approved apps made in Russia on devices sold in the country.

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