Freedom of Speech

Russia warned Facebook, Google and Twitter on Thursday to follow Russian Internet laws, or risk getting banned from the country.

Russia's Federal Service for Supervision of Communications, Information Technology and Mass Media (a.k.a Roskomnadzor) claims it sent out notices to the three social media giants requesting that they comply with the nation's Internet laws. However, critics of Russian leadership in the Kremlin are crying foul. They see the warning notices as a form of censorship.

A spokesman for Roskomnadzor, Vadim Ampelonsky, said that sending letters to remind companies about Russian laws, and the consequences for breaking them, is standard practice for the agency. Ampelonsky said that part of the problem relates to the encryption methodologies employed by the Internet companies, which prevents Roskomnadzor from blocking specific sites. As such, they may be forced to block Facebook, Google and Twitter's services completely, even if only a part of their services are in violation of the law.

Issue Relates to Denial of Russian Information Requests

Ampelonsky said that one of the biggest issues relates to Roskomnadzor's request that the three Internet companies provide them with information relating to any Russian blogger who has over 3,000 viewers a day. Furthermore, he said the Russian regulator wants the Internet companies to remove websites that are inciting unsanctioned unrest and protests.

Ties between the United States and Russia are strained at the moment and this issue is one more thing to add into the mix. Russian President Vladimir Putin said in late 2014 that the Internet would not be subjected to full government control. However, Putin's opponents in the Kremlin say that the nation's Internet laws are undermining freedom of speech.

Russian Laws Seek to Silence Unsanctioned Protests

One Internet law, which was passed in 2014, allows prosecutors to block any website without first obtaining court approval, if the site publishes information concerning non-government-sanctioned protests. Another piece of legislation forces bloggers who have amassed a large audience to register and confirm their identities with a government agency.

It seems that Facebook, Twitter and Google are caught between a rock and a hard place as they struggle to balance their users' concerns about privacy, with government demands for access to the private information of their users. Because social media is a relatively new phenomenon, state, national and international laws are still being crafted and interpreted on how to govern Internet privacy concerns.

Do you think governments should have unfettered access to user data on social media websites, or is this a violation of our civil rights?