Russia Votes to Force Twitter to Open Local Office, Increasing Global Attack on the Microblogging App

Russia Votes to Force Twitter to Open Local Office, Increasing Global Attack on the Microblogging App

About a week after the Nigerian government banned Twitter, Russia has taken legislative steps aimed to control US tech companies.

On Thursday, Russian lawmakers passed legislation that would oblige U.S. tech giants to open offices in Russia by January 2022 or face punitive measures.

The move is Part of Russia’s bid to beef up what it calls internet “sovereignty”, towing a path similar to China. The goal is tied to the state’s push to control social media posts among other internet activities and limit the influence of US-powered freedom of expression buoyed by its tech companies in Russia.

Russia has cracked down on U.S. internet companies in recent months and slowed down Twitter’s internet traffic since March to punish it for not deleting what Moscow says is banned content.

Reuters reported that the new legislation, which passed its third and final reading in the lower house of parliament, requires foreign sites with more than half a million daily users in Russia to set up a local branch or Russian legal entity.

It is part of the new requirements offered by the Nigerian government to lift Twitter ban. The West African country said the requirement will help the government to collect taxes from the social media platform.

The lack of such a requirement currently allows foreign sites to formally remain outside of Russia’s jurisdiction, the bill’s authors said.

Websites that do not comply would be marked as being non-compliant on search engines, they could be excluded from search engine results, and banned from advertising in Russia and for Russians, the parliament said on its website.

The bill needs to be approved by the upper house of parliament and signed by President Vladimir Putin before it becomes law. That is widely expected to happen.

However, this move has increased governmental attacks on Twitter, a development seen as attempt by governments to curtail the role of the microblogging app in promoting free speech in countries where the authorities want it in check.

Last week, the Indian government said that Twitter could lose its “safe harbor” protections — the rules that designate it an intermediary, rather than a publisher — and make it responsible for all of the content that appears on the platform if it doesn’t comply with new rules governing social media in the country.

In February, the Indian government introduced new rules governing social media platforms, requiring them to appoint an India-based grievance officer, who would be responsible for acknowledging the complaints or requests from the government, or from ordinary users, within 24 hours. Failing to comply could result in criminal prosecution.

The new rules came after government forces raided Twitter’s office in May, opening the window for a possible legally-backed prosecution of Twitter when a user uses the platform to promote something the government does not like.

The government has frequently demanded the platform remove tweets critical of the regime, requests that Twitter has sometimes resisted. In May, the platform marked some political figures’ tweets as “manipulated media,” spurring the government’s push to curb the social media’s powers.

Nevertheless, Nigeria is the first country among the trio that have been infuriated by Twitter, to ban the platform without legal bases.

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