Facebook to be blocked in Russia if it doesn't comply with data storage laws

Facebook will be blocked in Russia if it doesn't comply with local personal data storage laws, according to the country's communications watchdog.

Russia will block access to Facebook next year if the social media giant does not comply with a law requiring websites to store personal data of Russian citizens on Russian servers.

Russia's communications watchdog Roskomnadzor told reporters that either Facebook abides by the law -- which was approved by Russian President Vladimir Putin and enforced from September 2015 -- or the social network will cease to work on Russian territory.

"Everyone needs to abide by the law. There can't be any exceptions here," Interfax news agency cited Roskomnadzor head Alexander Zharov as saying. "In 2018, everything will be as it should be for sure."

Roskomnadzor blocked Russian access to LinkedIn last November as a result of the social media company being found guilty of violating the same data storage law. Since then, foreign internet companies have been under pressure to comply or risk losing their service in the country.

Twitter has told Roskomnadzor that it aims to localise the personal data of its users by mid-2018, Zharov said, while companies including Google and Alibaba have already complied, according to Bloomberg.

Russia is increasingly cracking down on the influence of foreign internet companies as it comes closer to a general election next year. It has also ordered its own secure messaging app for government officials to use to replace WhatsApp, Bloomberg added.

Last week, Facebook said it will turn over to the United States Congress Russian-linked ads that may have been intended to sway the 2016 US election.

The social network revealed that it identified around 500 fake accounts with ties to Russia that purchased $100,000 worth of ads during the campaign, as well as $50,000 ad purchases from Russian accounts.

"We support Congress in deciding how to best use this information to inform the public, and we expect the government to publish its findings when their investigation is complete," Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said.

Last year, China passed a law that bans the collection and sale of users' personal information, with companies also having to store customer data on servers in the country. Users have the right to have their data erased, although they will have to register with their real names on messaging apps and social networks.

China banned Facebook in July 2009 in an effort to restrict the flow of information about ethnic unrest following the Urumqi riots. The Chinese government has additionally been cracking down on VPN apps so that Chinese citizens cannot circumvent censorship.

The Chinese government has long controlled online speech through censorship and blocking numerous websites such as Google, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube in favour of more restrictive localised versions.

China also reportedly blocked Facebook-owned WhatsApp this week ahead of a Communist Party gathering in October.

The Thai government, meanwhile, threatened Facebook earlier this year that it would take action to block Facebook unless it removed 131 web pages deemed in violation of the country's lese majeste law, which makes insults to the monarchy punishable by up to 15 years in prison.

One such post featured Thailand's King Maha Vajiralongkorn in a Munich shopping centre wearing fake tattoos and a crop top, according to The Telegraph.

With AAP

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