China, which is infamous for blocking foreign social media websites at home on the basis of domestic rules and regulations, has got a taste of its own medicine. China's WeChat, the popular social media app developed by Tencent Holdings, is now blocked in Russia as it failed to abide by certain laws meant for internet service providers in the country.
According to information posted on Russian telecoms watchdog Roskomnadzor on Friday, the regulator had listed WeChat among the prohibited websites in Russia. Access to the WeChat app was restricted on the basis of Article 15.4 of the law on information, information technologies and information security, Russian news agency TASS reported.
Roskomnadzor also said on its website that the authorities blocked the WeChat app because it failed to discharge various responsibilities the law imposes on organisers of information distribution on the internet.
Tencent reportedly said that it was aware of the status of its WeChat app in Russia and was communicating with Russian authorities on the issue. The company also told local media that Russia's regulation requires internet service providers to register with related government bodies, but Tencent "had a different understanding" on the issue.
The Russian crackdown on WeChat follows the blocking on several messaging platforms, including Line, vChat, Imo and Blackberry Messenger, a few days back.
According to Roskomnadzor, the banned messaging services failed to comply with Russia's data privacy law, which requires all companies processing personal data of Russian citizens to store such information on servers within the country's borders for half of the year. The law also requires companies to provide users' personal data to law enforcement agencies, if necessary.
Last year, Russia blocked popular professional networking site LinkedIn as it allegedly failed to comply with the rules.
According to a recent report from Slate, Russia is trying to imitate China's approach on internet control after the web fanned its largest anti-government protests in five years. Moscow is so much impressed with Beijing's model of internet censorship that it invited Great Firewall architect Fang Binxing to speak at a forum on internet safety.
The blocking of WeChat, China's most popular social media app with over 800 million users worldwide, has reportedly affected daily life and work of the Chinese people living in Russia.
Some Twitter users have reacted to Russia's latest move on online censorship by comparing WeChat's obstruction to that of multiple foreign internet services that are blocked in China.
— David Hicks 戴维 (@davehickschina) May 6, 2017
Social media applications like Facebook, YouTube and Twitter are currently blocked in China, while Chinese President Xi Jinping continues to push for the so-called cyber sovereignty. Meanwhile, some people also believe that blocking a popular service like WeChat could hurt bilateral relations between Beijing and Moscow.