- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 21, 2019

Twitter is under fire in Russia following a ruling Thursday from Moscow’s internet watchdog, Roskomnadzor.

Roskomnadzor notified a Russian court that Twitter has failed to comply with a 2015 law requiring the company to physically store its data about Russian users within the country, the regulatory agency said in a news release.

Regulators “drew up a protocol on administrative violations against Twitter,” the release said, “…due to the fact that the company did not provide the necessary information on the localization of personal databases of Russian users in Russia.”

“The protocol was compiled in the presence of a Twitter representative,” said the announcement. “The document will be sent to the Justice of the Peace in accordance with the terms of the Administrative Code of the Russian Federation for a decision on administrative responsibility.”

Companies found in violation of the offense — Article 19.7 of the Russian Code on Administrative Offenses — first risk being ordered to pay fees up to 5,000 rubles, or only about $76.

Long-term offenders stand to face more than fines, however, evidenced most notably by Roskomnadzor’s decision in 2016 to ban LinkedIn for failing to comply with the Russian data-localization law.

Roskomnadzor contacted representatives from both Twitter and Facebook in late 2018 and requested details within 30 days about its effort to comply with the data-localization law, according to the agency.

Both social networks replied, Roskomnadzor director Alexander Zharov previously told Interfax, a Russian news agency, but their response “did not contain specific information about the localization of databases of Russian users in the territory of the Russian Federation or about the time frame for such localization of databases to occur,” he said last month.

A spokesperson for Twitter declined to comment on the data localization law when reached later Wednesday. Representatives for Facebook did not immediately answer a similar inquiry.

Roskomnadzor previously threatened to order Facebook blocked within Russia for failing to comply with the data-localization law in 2017. More recently, Roskomnadzor threatened to ban Google for violating a separate law prohibiting search engines from linking to websites banned under Moscow’s strict censorship regime prior to the company reportedly agreeing earlier this month to filter certain results.

• Andrew Blake can be reached at ablake@washingtontimes.com.

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