Russian lawmakers vote to force U.S. tech giants to open local offices


FILE PHOTO: Pavel Krasheninnikov and other members of Russia's lower house of parliament, also known as the State Duma, attend a session to consider constitutional changes proposed by President Vladimir Putin in Moscow, Russia March 10, 2020. REUTERS/Evgenia Novozhenina/File Photo

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russian lawmakers passed legislation on Thursday that would oblige U.S. tech giants to open offices in Russia by January 2022 or face punitive measures, part of a push by Russia to beef up what it calls internet "sovereignty".

Russia has cracked down on U.S. internet companies in recent months and slowed down Twitter's internet traffic since March to punish it for not deleting what Moscow says is banned content.

The new legislation, which passed its third and final reading in the lower house of parliament, requires foreign sites with more than half a million daily users in Russia to set up a local branch or Russian legal entity.

The lack of such a requirement currently allows foreign sites to formally remain outside of Russia's jurisdiction, the bill's authors said.

Websites that do not comply would be marked as being non-compliant on search engines, they could be excluded from search engine results, and banned from advertising in Russia and for Russians, the parliament said on its website.

The bill needs to be approved by the upper house of parliament and signed by President Vladimir Putin before it becomes law. That is widely expected to happen.

(Reporting by Maxim Rodionov Writing by Tom Balmforth Editing by Mark Potter)

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