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Google Pulls Out Of Russia

Google is going to close its engineering office in Russia

Russian authorities have been cracking down on internet activity throughout 2014.

In Russia, a new law forces tech companies to keep all data about Russians inside the country’s borders.

Google has so far declined to comment.

The government asked Google to remove 253 links from its search engine during a six-month period in 2013, the FT reports.

Google may well be joined in its escape by a host of entrepreneurs and engineers who want to work in less restrictive environments.

Google and its various units have now withdrawn from, been kicked out of, or face crippling restrictions in Russia, China, Spain, and the EU generally. It shows how hobbled even the most innovative tech companies can become in countries that do not have laws guaranteeing free speech.

In the tech world, particularly in Silicon Valley, the prevailing ethos is a libertarian one. Founders tend to believe that their companies are transforming society for the better and that government is a vestige of the industrial era that can be disrupted and swept away by consumer demand and the distribution of power to people.

These are the people who believe they can create independent countries on artificial islands floating off the coast of California, after all.

But recent events are challenging all that: Governments are fighting back, and, in the short run, they’re winning:

The long run is another matter. The EU and US spent much of the 1990s and early 2000s trying to break up Microsoft, which at the time had a monopoly position tying its Explorer internet browser to the Windows operating system. Microsoft lost its dominance of the browser and OS markets — but not because of government regulation. Google and Apple came along with more interesting alternative products, and consumers abandoned Explorer in droves. The antitrust fight became an interesting footnote to tech history, but not much more.