Intel self-censors as Russian free speech crackdown comes into force

The chip-making giant turns off all ways of contribution to its Russian developer forums in response to a controversial law that stifles free speech.

Russian "Pussy Riot" singer Nadezhda Tolokonnikova at her trial in 2012 (Image: Wikimedia Commons)

Intel has disabled all external contributions to its Russian-language developer community to remain compliant with a controversial anti-free speech law.

The chip-making giant said in a post on its community pages that it has disabled blog post and forum contributions, and all commenting for Russian content.

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This is "in order to be compliant with the Russian Internet Bloggers Law," it reads.

Developer bloggers will now be redirected to Habrhabr, a third-party tech community site, an Intel spokesperson said, noting that the company "remains very committed to our Russian developers and customers."

Intel Developer Zone groups at Russian social network Vkontakte and Google+ remain unchanged, as will Intel's Russia accounts at Facebook, Instagram, Vkontakte, YouTube, and Twitter.

The move is in response to a law that went into effect on January 1.

New rules signed into law in April by President Vladimir Putin, and backed by the Kremlin, forces news agencies, journalists, and bloggers to register with the state. The Russian government reserves the right to impose fines on those who fail to uphold the Kremlin's strict media rules, which forces them to fact-check and to stay silent during elections.

Reporters Without Borders previously criticized the law, saying it was designed to "increase control of online content."

The law followed a tumultuous time for the Russian people -- the Pussy Riot furor, which saw the four members of the homegrown punk band in prison for two years after they allegedly broke hooliganism laws, a criminal offense under the country's judicial system. The band's videos, uploaded to YouTube and other sites, were blocked from access within the country following a Russian court's decision to classify the content as "extremist" material under the blacklist law.

Russia, with a population of about 145 million people, has since then continued its decline into semi-dystopia, at a time when the country's government faces economic and diplomatic backlash from the global community.

Intel's push to block contributors and commenters from its site is seen as a two-fold move: the company will not stand to anti-free speech legislation, but it also absolves the company from liability.

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Other companies in Silicon Valley are also considering their position in the country.

Reports emerged that Google was considering shutting its engineering office of 50 employees, as the Russian government tightens its legislative noose around Western technology giants.

Adobe was last year the first known Western major company shut its offices in the country.

The future mass exodus would be as a result of a similar law passed about the same time as the anti-free speech law, which would force companies operating in Russia to store data on the country's citizens on its soil.

Because Russia's laws do not permit its intelligence agencies to acquire data held outside its jurisdiction, the government said it will force Western companies to store data domestically and within its reach.

Should companies not comply, Russian internet providers may be forced to block access to sites and services, preventing them from being accessible to the general public.