Facebook In Danger Of Getting Blocked In Russia Over Data Storage Laws

Facebook may be prevented from offering its services to Russians unless the social media company abides by the country’s data storage laws. Alexander Zharov, who heads Russia’s telecommunications watchdog disclosed that executives from the Menlo Park, California-based tech company will be meeting with Russian officials in the next few weeks with a view to holding talks on how to comply with Russian regulations.

Two years ago Russia passed a law which requires foreign internet firms to store Russian data on servers located within the country’s borders.

“We regularly meet with government representatives in the countries in which we operate,” said a spokesperson for Facebook in a statement.

9th most populous

If Russia blocked Facebook from operating within its borders it would be a big loss for the social media giant since the country is the ninth-most populous in the world. Russia has already set a precedent with LinkedIn as the professional networking site was blocked in the country last year in November after negotiations with the Microsoft-owned company with a view to complying with data storage laws hit a dead end.

But even though LinkedIn is blocked, Twitter and Facebook have been allowed to continue operating. According to sources Twitter will only abide by the data storage laws with regards to advertisers. At the moment the microblogging platform does not have servers in Russia or even an office.

Housing discrimination

The threat that Facebook is facing in Russia comes in the wake of a ProPublica report which alleges that the social media giant is still allowing users to post rental housing adverts which illegally discriminate against people with disabilities or particular ethnic groups. Last year in October ProPublica released a report showing that it managed to a rental housing ad on Facebook which excluded Asian-Americans, Hispanics or blacks from seeing it.

Under a law known as Fair Housing Act, discrimination based on national origin, familial status, handicaps, sex, religion, color or race is illegal. Earlier in the year Facebook had indicated that it had introduced new tools which solved the problem. The new report from ProPublica however suggests otherwise as the publication recently purchased housing ads and was still able to block Spanish speakers, Jews, the physically challenged and African-Americans. According to the report the average approval time for an ad was three minutes. The ad that ProPublica purchase last year was focused on a housing-related community meeting while the most recent one was on rental apartments making it illegal.

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