Russia‘s communications regulator has ordered that public access to LinkedIn’s (NYSE:LNKD) website be blocked throughout the country. Roskomnadzor, also known as the Russian Federal Service for Supervision of Communications, Information Technology and Mass Media, ordered Internet service providers to block access to the business networking company. The order against LinkedIn was issued in a short statement on Rokomnadzor’s site.
A court ruling found that the social networking firm was guilty of violating a data storage law. Russian law requires websites to store the personal data of Russian citizens on Russian servers. The law, approved by President Vladimir Putin in 2014, came into force in September last year.
Roskomnadzor filed the lawsuit after LinkedIn failed to respond to requests for information on plans for relocating data on Russian citizens to Russia. Tagansky district court ruled against LinkedIn on Aug. 4. On November 10, a Moscow appeal court upheld the earlier ruling.
The regulatory agency reportedly has received a letter from LinkedIn’s U.S. management requesting a meeting, which is expected to take place within the next two weeks. Because LinkedIn is a foreign company, the agency first must get approval for the meeting from the foreign ministry and the security services. LinkedIn is headquartered in the United States
LinkedIn has confirmed the block in a statement. The Kremlin said that the decision was legal. Putin apparently is not planning to interfere in the case.
Russian social network users fear that blocking LinkedIn is only a first step in a bigger effort at censorship and control. Social media has been a valuable tool for the opposition to organize protests in Russia. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said there were no concerns that the move would exacerbate fears of online censorship in the country.
Other U.S. companies have also been targeted under the legislation. Facebook, Twitter and Google have been ordered to host Russian users’ personal information in Russia, or risk being blocked. Microsoft was also under investigation, but Roskomnadzor recently gave the company the all-clear for its handling of Russians’ personal information. The regulator’s director, Alexander Zharov, said that the investigation into Microsoft has been closed. Microsoft is currently in the process of acquiring LinkedIn for $26.2 billion.