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Russia fines Google, Facebook over banned content

December 24, 2021

Moscow has accused Google and Facebook's parent company Meta of failing to remove illegal content from their platforms. It's the latest blow against tech giants in the Eastern European country.

An image showing the Google, Facebook and Twitter logos
Google, Facebook's parent company Meta and Twitter all received fines this week from a Russian courtImage: Jakub Porzycki/NurPhoto/picture alliance

A Moscow court on Friday ordered Google's Alphabet Inc. to pay a 7.2 billion ruble ($98 million/€87 million) fine for failing to remove content Russia deemed illegal.

The US company had previously been fined in Russia for the same reason, but Friday's penalty is the biggest so far. 

Russian news agency Interfax reported that the fine was calculated from a percentage of Google's annual earnings. 

Google said it would study the Moscow court decision before taking any further action. 

Later Friday, Facebook parent company Meta received a 1.9 billion ruble ($27 million) court fine, again for failing to remove banned content.

Twitter was also issued a fine of 3 million rubles ($40,000) on Thursday for not removing banned content.

Digital sovereignty and data sovereignty

Russia cracking down on US tech giants

The rulings are the latest blow to US tech companies doing business in the region.

Moscow urged foreign tech giants in November to set up physical operations in Russia by the end of the year. The demand was aimed at not only Google, but also Meta, Twitter and TikTok.

Russia has warned these companies that additional restrictions or an outright ban would occur if they fail to comply with the order.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has previously railed against US big tech companies and their pervasive influence.

"These are not just economic giants, in some areas they are de facto competing with states," Putin said during the virtual Davos economic summit in January.

Google warned it could be blocked

Russia's State Duma deputy Alexander Khinshtein said in remarks quoted by Russian news agencies that the fine "does not in any way interfere with the further work of Google." 

"But I must remind you that the legislation provides for other forms of response and so-called methods of coercion, which include slowing down traffic and complete blocking in Russia,'' he added.

Russia has demanded big tech platforms take down "extremist" content. Critics have said the Russian government is using extremism as a pretext to censor content critical of the Kremlin, such as photos or information about anti-government protests.

mm, wd/fb (AFP, Reuters)