Russia's communications regulator has ordered internet service providers to block public access to social networking site LinkedIn to comply with a court ruling that found the firm guilty of violating data laws.

Domestic legislation, introduced in 2015, states that Russian citizens’ data must be stored on servers within the country - something Russia says LinkedIn does not do. LinkedIn has more than 6 million registered users in Russia, and it becomes the first major social network to be blocked by Russian authorities.

Not linked in

Russia joins an already substantial list of countries that prevent their citizens accessing social networks.

Image: Freedom House

The governments of Pakistan, Vietnam, and Iran control the flow of information through the internet and some social media is blocked in these countries for citizens that aren’t using a Virtual Private Network (VPN).

Turkey’s appearance on the list is surprising in as much as the country is both a NATO member and a hopeful applicant to the European Union.

Turkey is also a functioning democracy, a fact which makes its regular blocking of social media all the more unusual.

China’s internet censorship is much more widely known, with all major social media services permanently blocked by the “great firewall”.

Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Google were all banned when Chinese officials claimed that social networking platforms were used to coordinate anti-government protests.

But even China’s censorship levels seem relatively relaxed when compared to North Korea. Social media in North Korea simply can’t exist, since the country has built an internal internet that is not connected to outside web sources.

Sometimes yes, sometimes no

There are many other countries that occasionally prevent access to certain networks. A growing number of African nations, for example, are ordering mobile networks to deny service during elections.

Various reasons are given from national security to the integrity of election result reporting.

It is worth noting that recent research found that African tweeters tend to be more political than tweeters in other continents. So it is appears that there, as in most places, fear of political unrest is often the key driver of internet restrictions.

This article has been updated.