Russian president on Thursday signed a law demanding large social media companies that operate in the country to open offices there or face stiff penalties.
If firms like Facebook and Twitter — neither of which currently have offices in Russia — do not establish physical offices in the country or open separate Russian business entities, they could be hit with expensive penalties including advertising bans.
“A foreign entity, carrying out activities on the internet in Russia, is obliged to create a branch, open an office or establish a Russian legal entity,” the new law said.
Twitter and Facebook are yet to comment on whether they intend to open a Russian office.
The law applies to any social media company with 500,000 or more daily users in Russia, according to Alexander Khinshtein, the head of the information policy and IT committee at Russia’s lower house of parliament.
In total, about 20 foreign companies — including retailers and e-commerce firms — may be affected by the law, Russian state media reported.
Putin’s blessing of the new law — which comes weeks after his June meeting with US President Biden — is part of a broader battle against American social media companies.
In March, Putin’s government accused Twitter of failing to do enough to remove “child pornography, pro-narcotic and suicidal content.”
In retaliation, the country’s communications watchdog slowed Twitter’s web traffic and threatened to outright ban the site before backing down in May.
Twitter, Facebook, Google and Telegram all have Russian hearings scheduled for later this month with new charges that they allegedly failed to delete illegal content quickly enough.
Russian authorities have also objected in the past to political opponents of the Kremlin like Alexei Navalny using foreign social media platforms to organize protests and to publicize investigations into alleged corruption.