Google Inc. packed up shop and left China in 2010 after it refused to dance to the tune of Beijing on censorship. A similar scene might unfold in Russia in 2016 as Russia makes some “moves” that bother on spying on social media users. The problem is that Google won’t be the only affected firm this time around as Facebook and Twitter also get into the eye of the storm for keeping free speech.
The Wall Street Journal reports that Moscow has given Google, Facebook and Twitter more time to comply with the law about their need to have their data centers on Russian soil. Russia has passed a new law the require foriegn tech firms to store data about Russian users in data centers in the country. The law goes into effect today but regulators said they won’t start check until January.
Russia’s Game Plan
Russia claims that it wants to improve the privacy rights of its users and that is why it wants tech firms to keep Russian data centers. Critics claim that Russian data centers could be a play by the Kremlin to clamp down on users. They posit that Kremlin can easily take over the data centers to track and quieten political radicals when events happen in the country.
Facebook and Twitter are fast becoming tools to circulate news, views, and raise a cause when events happen. This fact is seen in the recent clash when Google, Facebook and Twitter refused to block delete posts about former Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov and blogger Alexei Navalny who were attacked this year.
Google, Facebook, and Twitter not complying, yet,
It does not appear as if Google and the other tech firms are ready to comply with Russia’s laws. Google had been trying to find a common ground with the Russian government. However, its move to close its tech units in Russia – leaving only sales and marketing units behind suggests that Google might not comply with the law anytime soon. Facebook and Twitter do not have offices in Russia (not to mention the thought of building datacenters. Hence, it doesn’t appear that they’ll comply before January.
The opportunity cost if Google leaves Russia is huge. For one, Russia is a huge market for tech firms because of the low penetration of western social media. More so, Russia could be a viable launch pad to foraying into Eastern Europe. It remains to be seen if Google will dance to the tune of Moscow, but January is just around the corner.