Russia Slaps Record $125 Million Fine On Google And Meta For Failing To Remove Banned Content

by Bhaswati Guha Majumder - Dec 25, 2021 03:03 PM +05:30 IST
Russia Slaps Record $125 Million Fine On Google And Meta For Failing To Remove Banned ContentRussia warns US social media with hefty fines
Snapshot
  • The fines are the first time Russia has levied a charge based on a company's turnover, and they come as Moscow ramps up pressure on international internet platforms that it claims fail to remove banned content under Russian law on a regular basis.

Russia has fined Google and Meta a total of $125 million for repeatedly failing to remove forbidden content.

The fines are the first time Russia has levied a charge based on a company's turnover, and they come as Moscow ramps up pressure on international internet platforms that it claims fail to remove the content under Russian law on a regular basis.

According to the state-run RIA Novosti news agency, a Moscow magistrate's court penalised Google $98.4 million (7.2 billion rubles) under a legal clause that empowers courts to levy fines of between 5 to 10 per cent of a company's turnover.

Russia did not disclose the percentages, but according to reports, Google's penalties is just over 8 per cent. The company said that it would analyse the court's decision before taking any further action.

The court on 24 December fined Meta, previously Facebook, $27 million (1.9 billion rubles) for failing to remove banned content as well.

As reported by Reuters, Roskomnadzor, the Russian communication and media agency, claimed that Meta's applications, Facebook and Instagram, failed to remove over 2,000 banned posts from their platforms, while Google failed to remove nearly 2,600.

The Moscow Times said that pornographic material, posts regarding drugs and suicide, as well as messages encouraging Russians to protest in support of imprisoned Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny, whose organisations were blacklisted as "extremist" last year, are among the materials that were supposed to be removed.

Conflict Between Russia And US Tech Giants

According to previous reports, the American tech giant Google, which has paid more than 32 million roubles ($455,079) in fines in 2021 for failing to delete content Russian authorities deem illegal, is in conflict with Moscow on a number of topics.

Russia had written to Google’s management team, demanding that access be immediately restored to the German-language YouTube channel of state-backed broadcaster RT.

On 16 December, just five hours after its inauguration, RT's new channel 'RT auf Sendung' was blocked. According to RT, the channel was removed since it was launched in breach of the outlet's previous regulations.

After removing RT's German-language channels from YouTube, Russia threatened to block the Google-owned platform, while Kremlin called for "zero tolerance" for the video hosting giant, stating they had violated its Covid-19 misinformation policy.

However, after this, Roskomnadzor sent a letter to Google, asking for clarification and calling the ban an act of censorship.

Separately, last week, a Russian businessman Konstantin Malofeev on the United States sanctions list declared victory over Google in a court battle that might result in yet another large penalty for the tech giant.

In the case of Meta, in October this year, a state regulator accused the company of routinely failing to remove content on Facebook and Instagram that was "dangerous to citizens” threatening turnover-based fines.

Moscow has increased its pressure on largely American-based tech firms for allegedly interfering in Russian domestic affairs and failing to create physical offices and transfer users' data to Russian servers.

Kremlin has also required that 13 international technology businesses, largely from the United States, have an official presence on Russian land by the end of 2021, or risk restrictions or outright bans.

According to a report, since 1 July, foreign social media firms with more than 500,000 daily users have been required to open offices in Russia under a new law. For the first time, the companies are named in the list issued in November that includes Alphabet's Google, Meta, Twitter, TikTok, messaging app Telegram as well as Apple, which the Russian authorities have targeted for alleged abuse of its dominant position in the mobile applications market.

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