LinkedIn users in Russia are going to have to find another means to network with their peers after it was revealed that the popular professional social media site was to be banned in the country.
The news comes after a Moscow court approved the decision of the Russian online regulator, Roskomnadzor, to block the site, which was taken back in August.
Storing Personal Data
Roskomnadzor has successfully argued that LinkedIn has been in breach of recently passed legislation, on which we have reported before, which the Russian Government claims is intended to protect user privacy.
It includes a requirement for all personal data on Russian citizens to be stored on servers within the country. At the time, this provision was criticised for a number of reasons, not least that it made users more vulnerable to surveillance by the Russian regime itself.
Even when the law came into effect, it was thought that the clause was unlikely to be enforced as it is pretty much impossible for international social media sites like LinkedIn to comply with it.
Repercussions for others
Some organisations have already taken steps to comply with the new law, including Google, eBay, and Booking.com.
But other social media sites like Facebook and Twitter have made no effort to comply with the new laws to date, without any enforcement action being taken against them.
But with LinkedIn falling foul of the regulator now, it does now seem likely that a failure to comply will see action being taken against them at some point in the future. Russian newspaper Kommersant [in Russian] has quoted German Klimenko, a presidential advisor on internet affairs, as saying “this was a matter which concerned Facebook, Twitter, and all foreign companies.”
Of course, it isn’t the first time Russian has threatened to ban these sites. But some reports have suggested that they might already be in talks about complying with the rules, but the technical and logistical challenges of doing so would appear to be immense.
LinkedIn hasn’t thrown in the towel just yet, though, and have said in a statement that talks with Roskomnadzor are continuing. They have been keen to stress the potential damage blocking their site could cause to Russian businesses and the economy.
“The Russian court’s decision has the potential to deny access to LinkedIn for the millions of members we have in Russia and the companies that use LinkedIn to grow their businesses,” said a spokesperson.
Some analysts have suggested that the move against LinkedIn might be a shot across the bows of the whole industry. If it is intended as such, it remains to be seen if it is effective, but we can expect the largest of the social media giants to continue to resist for as long as possible.
LinkedIn is perhaps an odd choice for the Russian authorities to pick on. They have already shown a willingness to comply with the intrusive demands of an authoritarian regime, by agreeing to censor content in line with the requirements of the Chinese Communist Party.
It, therefore, seems strange that they would not be willing to jump through hoops for the Putin regime if required too.
But after social media was used to stir protests against the government back in 2012, the regime has been consistently cracking down on individual freedoms, and it may just be that LinkedIn is the next domino in their row.
That would offer few crumbs of comfort for LinkedIn, and their estimated 2.6 million users in Russia, unless they can broker an agreement. Of course, they can turn to solutions, such as a VPN to get around the censorship, but for many, it may mean a return to good old-fashioned face-to-face networking. Expect strong vodka sales to soar if the threatened block of LinkedIn is carried out then!