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Russia Threatens to Block Facebook Next Year

FILE - A young woman checks her smartphone at Red Square in Moscow, Russia, July 25, 2016. Russians may haver their access to Facebook blocked if the social media giant does not start storing Russian user data locally.

Russia has threatened to ban Facebook from operating in the country if it does not comply with a law regarding the storage of user data.

The law, passed in 2014, requires telecommunication companies to store the personal data of Russians inside Russia. It has been criticized as a way for the Russian government to force companies to hand over data on users.

The head of Roskomnadzor, the government's telecoms watchdog, Alexander Zharov, told reporters, "The law is compulsory for all. We will work on getting Facebook to observe the law. This will all happen in 2018 definitely."

Should Facebook choose not to comply with the law, Zharov said the company would be banned from Russia.

Last year, Russian authorities banned the professional networking website LinkedIn after they said the company violated Russian law.

Facebook is used heavily by Russian opposition groups to organize protests and share political messaging.

The announcement by Russian authorities comes several days after Facebook revealed that accounts with alleged Russian ties were used to post ads related to the 2016 U.S. election.

Facebook has said it would share those ads with U.S. authorities.