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Russia Demands LinkedIn App Takedown, Apple and Google Comply

January 8, 2017, 9:54 PM UTC
Russian President Vladimir Putin attends the awarding ceremony at the Kremlin
MOSCOW, RUSSIA- SEPTEMBER, 22 (RUSSIA OUT) Russian President Vladimir Putin applauds during the state awarding ceremony at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, on September, 22, 2016. Putin has awarded dozens politicians, scientists, musicians and other people today. (Photo by Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images)
Mikhail Svetlov—Getty Images

The New York Times reports that Russia has forced Apple and Google to remove the LinkedIn mobile app from their Russian application markets, the latest chapter in a months-long campaign against the professional networking site.

A recently-passed Russian law requires that any company holding data on Russians house that data within Russia. Russia began blocking LinkedIn’s website last November under that law, which some critics argue is an indirect form of censorship.

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The removal of the LinkedIn app from Apples App Store and Google’s Play shows the willingness of major internet gatekeepers to comply with individual nations’ data-control laws, on both the web and mobile devices. Though some American companies have stuck to their free-speech principles when called on to censor content, that resolve could be seen as weakening.

In 2010, Google withdrew from China in protest of government surveillance of human rights activists. But Google has begun a limited, government-friendly foray back into China, and has complied with a European “right to be forgotten” law said to prioritize privacy over freedom of speech.

Facebook, meanwhile, has been working on filtering tools that would make it friendlier to the Chinese government, though the program is experimental, and the platform is still banned in China.

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Now, it seems, similar compliance extends to phone apps. That’s particularly significant because China’s mobile phone market is dominated by phones based on Google’s Android OS, and Google has been working to re-establish a Chinese version of Google Play.

In Russia, LinkedIn has fewer users than other U.S.-based social networks—only about 6 million. That smaller userbase may be why it has become an early target for the data law, while, according to the Times, other sites that violate it have not been shut down.