Authorities in Russia have threatened to block Facebook as they attempt to extend their control of the Internet and shut down encrypted messaging service Telegram.
Alexander Zharov, the head of the state communications oversight agency Roskomnadzor, said it would conduct a check of Facebook in 2018 to see whether it is storing Russians’ personal data on servers in the country, as is stipulated under a controversial 2014 law.
It would also make sure the company is deleting information banned by the Russian authorities, noting that “they are being significantly late” to do so.
“If all or some of these things are not implemented or the Russian government is not informed of intentions to take these actions, then the issue of a block will obviously arise,” Mr Zharov told the newspaper Izvestia.
Mr Zharov said he had “expressed our position” to Facebook at a February meeting. His agency has been trying to block Telegram, which is popular for its private messaging and independent news channels, after it was banned by a court on Friday after refusing to hand over its encryption keys to state security services.
Telegram founder Pavel Durov has been able to stay a step ahead of the authorities by switching the messenger’s web hosting.
On Tuesday, Rozkomnadzor blocked more than 16 million internet protocol addresses belonging to Google and Amazon’s cloud hosting services, among others, as it tried—and failed—to shut down Telegram.
This heavy-handed approach has interrupted the functioning of social media, mobile apps, gaming services and websites.
The Kremlin museum said on Wednesday online ticket sales had ceased because of a “block of the functioning of one service,” which many suspected was connected to the Telegram ban.
Meanwhile, Maria Alyokhina, one of the Pussy Riot activists imprisoned in 2013 for a “punk prayer” protest against Vladimir Putin, was sentenced to 100 hours of community work for throwing paper airplanes — a reference to Telegram’s logo — outside the federal security service headquarters.
Asked by journalists on Wednesday about the ban on Telegram, Mr Putin’s spokesman would only say the president was aware of the court ruling against it.