Russia Fines Google For Illegal Content Breach

A Moscow court has fined Google 7.2bn roubles ($98m : £73m) for repeated failure to delete content deemed illegal in Russia. This is the largest such penalty yet in the country as Moscow attempts to control Western technology companies and may the first of more local prosecutions.

The  ruling is the first revenue-related  fine of its kind in Russia and comes amid fears of internet crackdown and this is the first time in Russia that a technology giant has been hit with a fine based on their annual turnover and may be the first of more similar fines, first implemented by the European Union

Russian news service Interfax reported that the judge calculated the fine sum on the basis of information about Google's annual revenue provided by the Federal Service for Supervision of Communications, Information Technology and Mass Media (Roskomnadzor).Google said that it would study the court ruling before deciding on further steps. 

Russian authorities have increased pressure on US technology firms this year, accusing them of not moderating their content properly, and interfering in the country's internal affairs.  Furthermore, shorty  after the Google verdict was announced, a 2bn ($21m : £16m rouble fine was handed to Meta, the parent company of Facebook, for similar content-related offences. Recently Twitter was also handed a much smaller 3m rouble fine for similar charges.

Roskomnadzor has also demanded that 13 foreign and mostly US technology companies, which include Google and Meta Platforms, be set up on Russian soil or face possible restrictions or outright bans.

This is not Google's first brush with Russian authorities over content laws. In May, Roskomnadzor threatened to slow down the online speed of Google if it failed to delete 26,000 instances of unlawful content, which it said related to drugs, violence and extremism.

Speaking during a recent news conference, Russia's President Putin did not rule out blocking a social network or internet company from operating in Russian cyber-space if they disregarded the country’s laws. 

The Russian government  has advocated development of a so-called sovereign internet, which would give the government more control over what its citizens can access, although critics have accused Russia of using the campaign to clamp down on free speech and online dissent. Roskomnadzor has blocked dozens of websites linked to jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny, whose campaign groups have been labelled "extremist".
Google and Apple were also forced to remove an app dedicated to Navalny's "Smart Voting" campaign, which gave users advice on tactical voting to unseat Kremlin-aligned politicians.

LinkedIn has already been blocked for refusing to co-operate with Russina authorities and six major providers of Virtual Personal Networks (VPNs) - which help users to conceal their online activities - have been banned. 

Russia has also introduced a new law requiring all new smartphones, computers and smart devices sold in the country to be pre-installed with Russian-made software and apps and the government said this is intended to help Russian technology firms compete with foreign rivals.

France 24:    BBC:      WashPo:     Guardian:      Business Standard:     Infosecurity Magazine

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