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Russian court slaps Google, Meta with massive fines

UPDATED: Fri., Dec. 24, 2021

By Uliana Pavlova Associated Press Associated Press

MOSCOW – A Moscow court on Friday slapped Google with a nearly $100 million fine and also fined Facebook’s parent company Meta $27 million over their failure to delete content banned by local law, as Russia seeks to step up pressure on technology giants.

The Tagansky District Court ruled that Google repeatedly neglected to remove the banned content, and ordered the company to pay an administrative fine of about $98.4 million.

Google said it would study the court documents before deciding on its next steps.

Later Friday, the court also slapped a fine of nearly $27.2 million on Meta for failure to remove banned content.

Russian courts had previously imposed smaller fines on Google, Facebook and Twitter this year. Friday’s rulings marked the first time the size of the fine was calculated based on revenue.

Russian state communications watchdog Roskomnadzor said Google and Meta were specifically accused of violating the ban on distributing content that promotes extremist ideology, insults religious beliefs and encourages dangerous behavior by minors, among other things.

The agency said that Facebook and Instagram have failed to remove 2,000 items despite the courts’ requests to do so, while Google has failed to delete 2,600 such items.

It warned that they may face more revenue-based fines for failure to delete the banned content.

Russian authorities have steadily ramped up pressure on social media platforms, accusing them of failing to purge content related to drug abuse, weapons and explosives and extremist views.

Earlier this year, authorities criticized tech companies for not deleting announcements about unsanctioned protests in support of jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny.

Russian authorities also have demanded that foreign tech giants store the personal data of Russian citizens on servers in Russia, threatening them with fines or possible bans if they fail to comply.

Alexander Khinshtein, head of the committee on information policies in the lower house of Russian parliament, said the massive fine should send a clear message to all IT giants.

He added that Russian law envisages other forms of punishment for failure to comply with court orders, including slowing down traffic and complete blocking.

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