Russia warns of blocking Facebook in 2018


Russian regulators on Tuesday threatened to block Facebook next year unless the company agrees to store data in the country.

Alexander Zharov, head of the Federal Communications Agency, or Roskomnadzor, said at a news conference Facebook must comply with a controversial 2014 law that requries foreign companies to store data on Russian citizens on servers located in Russia.

"The law is mandatory for everyone," said Zharov. "Roskomnadzor will be forcing foreign internet companies to comply or shut down in the country."

Some cybersecurity experts have raised concerns Law No. 242 opens up companies to penetration by Russian intelligence agencies. But many technology firms have complied, including Alibaba, Alphabet and eBay. Others, like Facebook and Twitter, have been notable standouts.

When making his remarks Tuesday, Zharov said Twitter agreed to comply with the law by the middle of 2018.

Last November, Zharov blocked Russian access to popular business social network LinkedIn, owned by Microsoft, for not following the law.

He called Facebook a "unique service" but said the government would shut down access within a year if it did not start storing data locally.

"That will certainly happen in 2018," he said.

Facebook declined an Anadolu Agency's request for comment.

As relations between the United States and Russia has deteriorated in the past few years, the latter has focused on reducing its dependence on foreign tech services. The government has been developing a clone of messaging service WhatsApp, which is owned by Facebook, for Russian officials.

Earlier this month, Facebook announced an operation out of Russia spent an estimated $100,000 on 3,000 political ads on the platform in the U.S. during the 2016 presidential election.

Shares of Facebook dropped in midday trading Tuesday amid the news but closed up 0.82 percent compared to the previous day's close.

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