LinkedIn no Longer Welcome in Russia

The Red Square in Moscow, Russia

Russia recently instructed its Internet Service Providers to block their customers’ access to the world’s largest professional network aka LinkedIn. Kremlin accuses the Mountain View, Calif.-based company of infringing the country’s data laws.

Russia’s law forces foreign companies that store user data to use servers in the country. Last week, a Russian court found that LinkedIn does not comply with this requirement. So, the government should ban it.

A Russian communications regulator dubbed Roskomnadzor ordered ISPs to cut access to the site on Thursday. It is the first time the former communist country bans a social networking site of this size. However, experts think other major websites may follow.

LinkedIn’s Reaction

LinkedIn, whose Russian user base amounts to 6 million users, criticized the ruling. The company explained that it only seeks to “create economic opportunity” across the world. The firm said its Russian users were already flooding customer service departments with requests to learn what happened.

The professional networking site said that Roskomnadzor barred millions of users and their companies from using the service. This could have a negative impact on business. LinkedIn said it is looking forward to hear from Roskomnadzor and have a talk on the data localization practices.

Russia first passed data localization restriction laws in 2014, but it is the first time it enforces them. The West criticized Russia for conducting a crackdown on non-domestic internet companies.

However, Russian authorities had urged other tech giants to comply with the restrictions including Facebook and Google. Yet, even though these two companies store their data on foreign servers they remain active in the country.

Reddit Censored in Russia

In 2015, Roskomnadzor unleashed the banhammer on Reddit. On paper, the ban was only partial and it sought to prevent drug proliferation. The regulator ordered ISPs to block access to just one Reddit page. On that page, one Redditor explained how to grow drugs. However, because some ISPs failed to decrypt the website’s secure browsing tech, they banned Reddit entirely.

Roskomnadzor learned about the ill-fated page after the country’s drug agency found that the discussion website may promote drug-related information. The Reddit post provided hints on how to grow psychedelic mushrooms. On the other hand, the post, which was written in Russian, was two years old when the agency spotted it. Also, it bore no comments or votes which suggests that it wasn’t very popular on the platform.

Authorities claim they initially asked Reddit itself to remove and replace the post with a blank page featuring the site’s alien mascot. But as the company failed to reply, Russian regulators asked ISPs to block the page. Nevertheless, because not everyone could decrypt Reddit’s encryption tech, many service providers blocked the entire site.

Many Russian Reddit users bypassed the block through virtual networks (VPNs). Just like in China, another major country that censors the Internet, Russians use VPNs to hide their Internet address and access blocked sites.

The author of the post which took down Reddit in Russia said he would not remove it. He explained that he wants to underline the lack of respect for free speech of the Russian government.

Image Source: Wikimedia