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Russia fines major social media companies

September 14, 2021

Russia has fined US social media giants Facebook and Twitter, along with homegrown Telegram. The fines are part of a wider crackdown on internet platforms hosting content deemed "illegal" by regulators.

A young woman at home with her laptop in Moscow
Russian internet users have experienced a punitive slowdown of Twitter since MarchImage: Imago Images/Cavan Images

The Tagansky district court in Russia fined US social media giants Facebook and Twitter on Tuesday alleging the companies had failed to delete content the Russian government considers illegal.

The fines come amid a wider crackdown on the internet and big tech. The Russian government has said it wants foreign internet firms to open offices in Russia and store the personal data of Russians in Russia.

Facebook received five fines worth 21 million rubles ($287,850, €243,000), Twitter was slapped with two fines totaling 5 million rubles and Telegram was fined 9 million rubles.

Russia's crackdown on free speech online 

Russia has targeted internet platforms for failing to take down content considered illegal, such as pornography or posts condoning drugs and suicide.

In January, Moscow authorities demanded social networks remove posts asking people to join protests supporting Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny

Russia preparing for more cyberattacks?

Twitter has been subjected to a punitive slowdown of its service in Russia since March as the Russian government said the social media company and other big tech firms have not deleted posts with banned material fast enough.

Russia's Foreign Ministry said last week that it had summoned the US Ambassador alleging American interference in Russia's upcoming parliamentary elections.

Navalny's 'Smart Vote' project targeted

Russia's communications regulator Rozkomnadzor has blocked dozens of websites associated with imprisoned Navalny's Smart Vote project, which encourages voting for candidates not aligned with the ruling United Russia Party of President Vladimir Putin.

The Russian government has also urged Apple and Google to remove an app associated with the Smart Vote project.

Smart Vote caused the increasingly unpopular United Russia Party to lose several seats in local elections in 2019.

ar/wmr (AFP, Reuters)