Russia, the bastion of freedom and democracy on the eastern side of Europe, has reportedly passed a law that will see IT companies be forced to decrypt their users’ messages or face a fine.
The new law, which has already reportedly been approved, comes after numerous attempts by the Russian government to force companies, especially Western ones, to comply with its views on censorship and mass surveillance. Not long ago, the country passed a law where bloggers and other public figures were forced to sign up to a registry, while companies like Facebook and Microsoft have consistently been pressured to give the government more control over their data.
And that pressure will only get worse if this new law is enforced, as services like Facebook Messenger, Telegram and WhatsApp are being targeted. Under this legislation, a company that doesn’t provide the Federal Security Service (FSB) with access to its data can be fined up to $15,000 while individuals, officials and other legal entities that hide their content behind encryption will also face smaller fines. The law was proposed after an organization supposedly uncovered “closed groups” on Telegram and Messenger, “where teenagers [were] brainwashed to kill police officers”.
The law will likely hasten the departure of big-name Western tech companies from the country, whose relationship with the government has been strained for years. As for its part, Russia is content and focused on promoting local networks and services like the VK social network, which enthusiastically cooperate with the Kremlin.