Russian bans for tech giants is last resort, Interfax reports

FILE PHOTO: The logo of Russia's state communications regulator, Roskomnadzor, is reflected in a laptop screen in this picture illustration taken February 12, 2019. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Moscow is ready for dialogue with foreign technology companies over possible bans for those that do not have official representation in Russia by the end of the year, Interfax reported on Monday, citing the state communications regulator.

The report said companies would be blocked only as a last resort, dialling back a little from last month's demands by regulator Roskomnadzor that 13 foreign and mostly U.S. technology companies set up in Russia by Jan. 1 or face possible restrictions or outright bans.

Russia has been slowing the speed of Twitter since March as punitive action for not deleting content that Moscow deems illegal. Twitter denies allowing its platform to be used to promote illegal behaviour.

Alphabet's Google and Facebook, meanwhile, face Russian court cases this month for repeated violations of the same legislation. Neither company responded to requests for comment when the court dates were announced.

The law on setting up representation in Russia came into effect on July 1 and targets foreign social media giants and tech companies with more than 500,000 daily users.

"Slowdowns and blocking are not something we want to apply in principle," Roskomnadzor's deputy head, Vadim Subbotin, told Interfax. "It is a last resort when other arguments no longer work.

"If companies do not manage to open representative offices in our country by the deadline, it does not mean that we will immediately start taking action against them. It does mean that from Jan. 1 we will start thinking about it."

Subbotin said that Roskomnadzor is prepared to engage in dialogue with companies that show they are working to comply with the legislation.

Roskomnadzor's demand last month gave few details of what exactly the companies were required to do and targeted some that already have Russian offices. Analysts said the legislation lacked clarity.

Subbotin on Monday said the text of the law described all the requirements in sufficient detail and that companies had been given enough time.

(Reporting by Alexander Marrow; Editing by David Goodman)

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