Russia has imposed a 21.1bn ruble (USD 383m; GBP 305m; EU 373m) fine on tech giant Google for failing to censor its content to meet the Russian administration’s standards.
Roskomnadzor, the Russian federal agency responsible for monitoring, controlling and censoring Russian mass media, claims Google is allowing “fake” news reports to circulate, which discredit the country’s military and encourage protests.
According to the English-language newspaper The Moscow Times, Roskomnadzor said the Google-owned video platform YouTube had failed to block “false information” on the invasion of Ukraine, “extremist and terrorist propaganda”, and content “calling on minors to participate in unauthorized demonstrations.”
Google has not responded to the court announcement made on Monday, July 18.
This is not the first time that Google, which is owned by Alphabet, has been fined by Moscow’s Tagansky District Court, which ruled against the company at least five times in 2021 for more than 125 million rubles.
The Moscow Times reports that the fine is the largest ever imposed on a Western tech firm by a Russian court. However, The Moscow Times’ reporter Vladimir Zykov added that Russian authorities can impose on Google “as many fines as they wish, they won’t receive the money”, as the firm has pulled out of the country.
Google officially left Russia in May 2022, when the government seized its local bank accounts that had been frozen by a court in March. Responding to the move by the Russian authorities, Google said that “The Russian authorities’ seizure of Google Russia’s bank account has made it untenable for our Russia office to function…”.
Google has also been beset by a number fines from French and American regulators for antitrust, data privacy, online-tracking of advertising, copyright and children’s privacy violations. The largest fine imposed on Google was in 2017 by the EU for the sum of 5bn USD for using its Android phone software to allegedly stifle competition. To date, the ruling is still being contested and no payment has been made.
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