60% users from Russia remain on LinkedIn after year of blocking
Over a year since the blocking of the social network LinkedIn, its audience in Russia has decreased by almost 40%, but still exceeds 1 million people. Despite the strengthening of the fight against VPN services, the social network will keep its audience, experts believe.
In September this year, LinkedIn traffic amounted to 1.4 million people, which is 39% lower than in September 2016 (2.3 million people), before the service was blocked on the territory of Russia. This is evidenced by Mediascope research company (the report is prepared at the request of RBC; it is based on the number of people who visited the social network at least once from the desktop, using a mobile device or mobile application for the specified period among residents of cities with a population of more than 700 thousand people aged 12-64).
Providers began blocking LinkedIn in Russia in mid-November last year. The reason for this was the violation of the law on personal data by the company, according to which, from September 1, 2015, the personal data of Russians should be stored and processed in the country. In August 2016, the Tagansky District Court of Moscow ruled that LinkedIn had violated the law, which was later appealed by the social network. However, November 10 last year, the Moscow City Court dismissed the appeal, and a week later, Roskomnadzor sent a message to telecom operators about the blocking of LinkedIn in Russia.
Before the blocking, in October 2016, as Mediascope reports, LinkedIn had 2.6 million users in Russia, and 2.5 million in November. However, already in December, the resource’s traffic decreased to 1.5 million people.
SimilarWeb provided similar statistics. In October 2016, the number of LinkedIn’s unique users in Russia was 3.5 million people (desktop and mobile version combined). In November last year, this figure fell to 2.8 million, and to 1 million people in December. Following the results of October this year, the social network’s audience in Russia remained at the same level — the same 1 million users, according to SimilarWeb.
At the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum in May 2017, Head of Roskomnadzor Aleksandr Zharov said that the topic of renewing LinkedIn's work in Russia can be raised in the fall. According to him, Microsoft will finalize the acquisition of LinkedIn by that time, and then “Microsoft will see what to do with LinkedIn.” Zharov also noted that LinkedIn’s “official position is that the company does not have the ability to comply with Russian laws.”
Microsoft’s Russian office refused to comment on LinkedIn blocking. “To date, LinkedIn has not applied to Roskomnadzor for the resumption of the dialogue,” an agency’s representative noted. At the time of writing, LinkedIn has not answered RBC's questions.
To block the unblockable
Not only LinkedIn has maintained its audience in Russia, but also other blocked sources, such as the popular torrent tracker RuTracker.org. Access to it for Russian users was permanently limited in January 2016. As previously reported by RBC, according to SimilarWeb, a year later, in December 2016, the site recorded about 29.9 million visits from Russia as opposed to 52.9 million in December 2015. During the past year, RuTracker traffic was at the level of 38.8-29.9 million users.
However, the Russian authorities hope that the situation could be remedied by a new legislation. November 1, a law regulating anonymizers, VPN, and other services that allow access to blocked sites entered into force in Russia. From now on, if the services do not block websites banned in Russia, they themselves will end up in the black list.
According to Zharov, most VPN services agreed to comply with the requirements of Roskomnadzor. “In Russia, there are 25-30 popular proxy and VPN services. These include cameleo.ru, 2ip.ru, and others. They all expressed their readiness to execute the law, and we did not have any misunderstanding in their conversation with them. Clearly, there is still hundreds of thousands of small-scale VPNs, as it is easy to create such a service. But the law is primarily focused on the services most popular with citizens,” Zharov commented on the upcoming law.
However, it is unlikely that the new law will be able to reduce the audience of blocked resources, experts say. “A significant number of large VPN services have already reported that they are not going to cooperate with Roskomnadzor; many users have already installed the necessary programs,” the chief analyst of the Russian Association of Electronic Communications believes.
In case with LinkedIn, the new law will neither work, he continues. “The social network has a specific audience; as a rule, it is professionals tied to international companies. I’m positive it won't make much difference. And with this talk going on, the traffic will even increase, as more people will learn about the existence of VPN services,” the chief analyst concludes.