Russia Fines Google With Record $100 Million For Allowing Banned Content
Russia has dramatically escalated its long-running battle with Google after repeatedly accusing it and other major US-based internet platforms of ignoring Russian laws on obscenity as well as propaganda, with on Friday a Moscow court slapping an unprecedented fine of almost $100 million on Google.
The content under dispute which state media regulator Roskomnadzor has demanded the removal of includes pornographic material, as well as posts that reportedly promote drugs and suicide. Crucially the regulator and Kremlin officials have long charged Google with promoting politically subversive messaging with the intent to stir up protests in support of jailed dissident Alexei Navalny. Pro-Navalny protests groups were previously banned as “extremist” earlier in the year.
Essentially Russia has accused Silicon Valley-based internet companies of allowing themselves to be used as a hidden hand of US foreign policy inside Russia, also promoting controversial content like transgenderism among Russia’s youth – which is also outlawed under recent legislation related to ‘propagandizing’ minors with sexually explicit and corrupting material.
While there’s been prior instances of US social media companies being fined a handful of millions over the dispute before, this fine of 7.2 billion rubles, (or $98 million) is record-setting and clearly meant to send a resounding message and warning, but still a slap on the wrist compared to the total estimated $1.1 billion Google Russia earned in 2020.
Commenting on how the court arrived at this high figure, The Moscow Times notes that the Moscow magistrate’s court did so “under a legal clause that allows courts to impose between 5% and 10% of a company’s turnover, according to the state-run RIA Novosti news agency.”
So far Google has said little, only telling AFP that “We’ll study the court documents and then decide on next steps,” according to its press office.
Russia’s fight against Western tech companies has just reached a new level. A Moscow court fined Google $100 million for its “systematic failure to remove banned information”. This is by far the largest fine to date and the first one based on turnover. pic.twitter.com/8hqO8oYw5H
— Tadeusz Giczan (@TadeuszGiczan) December 24, 2021
Meanwhile, Facebook and Twitter have so far faced symbolic fines over similar charges of failing to remove content. “Meta — which has a hearing in court later today on the same charges — has also been threatened with a revenue-based fine,” AFP writes. “On Thursday, Twitter was handed its latest fine of three million rubles ($40,000) after authorities started throttling its services in the spring.”
On the question of whether Kremlin state authorities would ever go so far as to block these platforms, it’s seen as highly unlikely and nearly impossible given the immense popularity among the Russian public, which many fear would result in massive backlash.
Fri, 12/24/2021 – 10:05