Russia may prevent Facebook from working within the country if the company does not comply with its laws on data storage, according to a Russian official.
On Tuesday, Alexander Zharov, the head of the country’s telecom watchdog, said Facebook executives would travel to the country at the end of the year or in early January to discuss compliance with Russian regulations. As of September 2015, Russian law requires that foreign internet companies store the personal data of Russian users on servers within the country.
“We will discuss with them all the issues, including localization of databases and prompt removal of prohibited content," Zharov said, according to state news agency Tass.
Facebook’s business would take a significant hit if it lost users from the world’s ninth-most populous nation, a real threat given the precedent Russia set with LinkedIn: Using the law in question, Kremlin officials locked the professional network out of the country in November 2016 after negotiations over user data storage came to an impasse.
Despite LinkedIn’s travails, Russian officials have continued to allow Facebook and Twitter to operate within the country. A source familiar with the situation said Twitter has agreed to review the Russian law with respect to advertisers only and stressed that no decision had been made. Twitter currently does not have an office or maintain any servers in Russia.
“We regularly meet with government representatives in the countries in which we operate,” a Facebook spokesperson said in a statement to BuzzFeed News on Tuesday.
Facebook, which has faced plenty of scrutiny for its role in the propagation of disinformation created by Russian entities, was reported to be in discussions to open a representative office in the country, though that was not confirmed by Zharov on Tuesday.
In August 2015, Russian state-sponsored news organization Sputnik News reported that Facebook's then head of public policy in the region said the company did not think it was necessary to store Russian user data on servers in the country. A Facebook spokesperson said that the company currently does not store any data on servers within Russia and has no office in the country.
This post has been updated to include comments from a Facebook spokesperson.