Last summer, the government of Russia adopted a law requiring certain large tech companies to adopt a wide-reaching localization protocol.
The law, titled “On the Activities of Foreign Persons in the Information and Telecommunication Network ‘Internet’ on the Territory of the Russian Federation,” requires certain large foreign tech companies to establish representative offices or legal entities in the country that operate in the Russian language. While the law officially went into place on Jan. 1, the country recently announced it would be lenient in imposing any penalties during the early days of 2022, in order to accommodate companies that have yet to implement the law’s requirements.
More specifically, any foreign internet company whose daily audience consists of more than 500,000 Russian users must establish a branch or office within the country. Companies can also establish a Russian legal entity instead of a branch or representative office in the country. According to the Russian news agency TASS, this law currently only affects companies with a daily Russian audience exceeding 500,000 users. However, the law could also be expanded in the future to include other companies as well.
Currently, the list of companies to be affected by the law includes Google, TikTok, Telegram, Meta, and many more non-Russian tech companies. Under the law, companies would essentially have to develop a version of the company that is entirely localized to Russian audiences. Once the companies establish the local office or legal entity, they would be required to operate in Russian, and act as a sort of intermediary between the company and the Russian people and their government.
The companies will then be obliged to create a contact form specifically for citizens of Russia to reach out to the company and offer feedback, as well as limit Russian users’ access to information whose dissemination may be prohibited by Russian law.
While legislators in Russia have told the media that 2022 will be a pivotal year in shaping the relationship between the country and foreign tech companies, it appears that the targeted companies have yet to fully adhere to the law’s protocol.
When the law was first passed in July 2021, several penalties for not adhering to the policy were outlined, including partial or full restriction of the company’s resources in Russia. However, the Russian government stated on Dec. 31 that it will not be imposing any of these penalties just yet, giving companies more time to establish new offices or Russian legal entities and follow the new law. A government official told TASS that the country is confident that the companies will make an effort to engage with a Russian audience and will work toward following the policy in the coming year.