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Moscow Magistrates’ Court to begin hearings on WhatsApp’s failure to host data in Russia


Moscow Magistrates’ Court to begin hearings on WhatsApp’s failure to host data in Russia

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Photo: Anton Vaganov/Reuters

Moscow’s Magistrates’ Court will today begin administrative hearings against WhatsApp for failing to localize data.

Today’s court proceeding comes as the Russian government continues its attempts to exert further control over Big Tech companies. The push to launch legal action against WhatsApp follows recent legislative incursions to compel foreign companies to open offices in Russia and store domestic personal data on local servers. In July, Google was fined for posts which the Russian government alleges encouraged minors to participate in unsanctioned protests following the arrest of Alexei Navalny.

Expect the Court to fine WhatsApp several million roubles to compel tech companies to abide by Russian internet legislation. In July, Russian courts fined Facebook and Twitter levying similar charges of violating data localization laws. However, current legislation is unlikely to change tech companies’ financial calculations in the short-term while fines remain relatively low. Medium-term, non-compliance by foreign companies will persist given Moscow’s reliance on foreign internet infrastructure.

While Russian authorities have justified the laws by citing a desire for protecting state security, critics contend that such laws facilitate mass censorship and state surveillance. Long-term, such measures will constrain digital freedom of expression and rights to privacy for Russian citizens.

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