Russia is banning LinkedIn

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Russia to block LinkedIn
Photo Courtesy: Presidential Press and Information Office / Wikimedia

LinkedIn, the social networking site for professionals that will soon be part of Microsoft, is to be blocked in Russia.

On Thursday after a local court ruled that it had breached the country’s data protection rules, a sign of growing tensions for American tech companies operating in the country. The law is aimed at protecting Russians’ personal information, but human rights organizations have linked it to a broad swath of moves aimed at increasing censorship online.

According to a report, Russia’s communications watchdog, Roskomnadzor, 1,500 foreign and local companies has been investigated to ensure they are abiding by it.  Legislation put in place following the 2014 law has been described by Human Rights Watch as taking “Big Brother surveillance to a new level.”

These include jail sentences for online political expression that might be deemed “extremist” and a requirement of telecoms and internet companies to hand the government any communications information it wants without a court order.

It was unclear why LinkedIn was targeted in particular, rather than any other major social networking site. Analysts have suggested that the Russian authorities focused on the company, an also-ran in the country’s social networking market, as a warning to larger tech companies.

LinkedIn, which has a few million users in the country, told Reuters it is open to meeting with Roskomnadzor to try to find a solution. The ban could take effect as early as Monday, with internet service providers in Russia blocking access to LinkedIn’s web address.

According to The New York Times, LinkedIn could still appeal the court’s decision. Despite the company’s current problems in Russia, it has often been willing to bend to local pressures, particularly in China, where it has agreed to abide by the country’s strict censorship rules to build a significant presence there.

Meanwhile, Facebook, Twitter and Google were left exempted to the ruling law though Russian government asked the companies to hand over information from individual accounts. The three big social medias have already rejected several requests.

Photo Courtesy: Presidential Press and Information Office / Wikimedia

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