Image Source: The Street Journal
For failing to censor access to “prohibited” content about the conflict in Ukraine and other topics, Russia has fined Google 21.1 billion roubles ($373 million; £301 million).
The nation’s communications watchdog, Roskomnadzor, claimed the data contained “false” stories that denigrated Russia’s military and posts pushing people to demonstrate.
It referred to the American IT giant as a “systematic” offender of its laws.
Google waited a while before responding.
Last month, the local unit of the corporation declared bankruptcy. The action was taken when Russian authorities took control of the company’s local bank account, which allowed them to recover the 7.2 billion roubles that the company had been forced to pay for related reasons last year.
Russian pressure on digital companies has increased in recent years as the country accuses them of failing to moderate their content and meddling in its domestic affairs adequately.
Following the invasion of Ukraine in February, efforts to regulate social media and other news websites have intensified. The government also passed a law that threatens those who disseminate “false” information about the war with 15 years in prison.
In March, Google, a division of Alphabet, stopped providing its paid services in Russia, including advertising. Additionally, it has relocated workers and tightened restrictions on Russian-backed news accounts.
But unlike some other social media platforms, like Facebook, it is still partially accessible in Russia, where many smartphones rely on its technology.
Google stated in March that by continuing to offer search, maps, and YouTube, Russians now have access to “global information and opinions.”
According to official media, the fine announced on Monday, which was calculated as a percentage of the company’s local income, represents the largest charge ever imposed on a tech corporation in Russia.
How Russia attempt to suppress Google and other Western media
A closer examination of the court documents reveals that users frequently only post about protests in support of imprisoned opposition leader Alexei Navalny, despite the fact that Google and Meta risk multi-million dollar fines for failing to remove content that the Russian government considers illegal.
A caricature was published on Facebook in the summer of 2018 by a Russian poet using the pen name Siberian Viking. It featured the double-headed eagle from the Russian coat of arms, but instead of the bird’s heads, it featured the faces of Vladimir Putin, the current president, and Dmitri Medvedev, the country’s former prime minister.
Due to the post’s “blatant contempt” of the Russian Federation’s president, the state, and the constitution, the Russian authorities requested that Facebook remove the content. Facebook disobeyed, and the post was mentioned in one of the more than 60 cases brought against Western social media in Russia this year, leading to fines of more than $2 million.
The number of fines that have actually been paid is unknown. The cases, however, highlight the challenges of conducting business in a nation where restrictions on freedom of speech and political activity exist. In particular, the June 2017 ruling that the Anti-Corruption Foundation, run by imprisoned opposition leader Alexei Navalny, is an “extremist” group on par with the Taliban or the Islamic State group, highlights the challenges of doing business in such a nation.
In an interview with the Kommersant daily, Andrei Lipov, the head of Russia’s media watchdog Roskomnadzor, stated that social media companies are required to locate and remove “the most harmful things,” which he listed as “child pornography, suicide, drugs, extremism, and fake news.”