“This will all happen in 2018 definitely … The law is compulsory for all … There are no exceptions here,” head of Roskomnadzor telecoms watchdog Alexander Zharov said on Tuesday.
The official said Facebook had until now refused to observe the law on personal data storage, which was passed in 2014 requiring foreign messaging services, search engines and social networking sites to store the personal data of Russian users inside Russia.
Roskomnadzor ordered Russian internet providers last year to block LinkedIn, a professional networking site also based in the United States, which Moscow said had rejected repeated calls from Moscow to comply with the regulations.
Zharov said authorities would continue efforts to persuade Facebook to move its servers into Russia, otherwise, he said, the company would stop providing services in the country.
“In any case we will either get the law carried out or the company will stop working in Russia, as unfortunately happened to LinkedIn,” Zharov said, adding, “We will work on getting Facebook to observe the law.”
The official acknowledged that Facebook had a huge audience inside Russia but said shutting down the social networking website would cause no significant problem for the users in the country as they could switch to other services.
“We understand very well that Facebook has a significant number of users in Russia, but on the other hand, we understand that it’s not a unique service, there are other social media sites,” Zharov said.
Some have criticized Russia’s law on data storage, saying it is meant to force foreign companies to hand over user information to authorities.
The potential ban on Facebook also comes amid a dispute in the US that Russia-linked fake accounts on the social media service paid for ads that may have influenced last year’s election in the US. Facebook has yet to comment on new warnings from Moscow while it has said that it was sharing its findings with the US authorities on Russia’s alleged meddling in the election.