A Moscow court fined Google 7.2 billion roubles ($98 million; £73 million) for failing to erase content that was considered illegal in Russia on multiple occasions. The court’s press staff did not provide any information on the offending text in its announcement.
This is the first time in Russian history that a technology behemoth has been fined based on its annual revenue. According to the AFP news agency, Google will analyse the court’s decision before taking any further action.
This year, Russian authorities have stepped up their pressure on tech companies, accusing them of not adequately filtering their material and interfering in the country’s internal affairs. Hours after the Google verdict, Meta, Facebook’s parent company, was fined 2 billion roubles for similar content-related violations.
Last week, Twitter was fined 3 million roubles for similar offences. This isn’t the first time Google has had a run-in with Russian authorities over content rules. In May, Russia’s media watchdog threatened to throttle Google’s speed unless it removed 26,000 instances of illegal content relating to drugs, violence, and extremism.
President Vladimir Putin has pushed for the creation of a sovereign internet, which would allow the government to have more control over what information its citizens have access to. Russia has been accused by critics of exploiting the campaign to suppress free speech and online opposition.
Hundreds of websites affiliated with imprisoned opposition leader Alexei Navalny, whose campaign groups have been labelled extremist, have been blacklisted by the country’s media regulator.
An app dedicated to Navalny’s “Smart Voting” campaign, which gave users guidance on tactical voting to defeat Kremlin-aligned MPs, was also ordered to be removed by Google and Apple.
Websites such as LinkedIn and Dailymotion have already been blocked for refusing to cooperate with authorities, and six major VPN providers have been banned.
Russia also passed a new rule earlier this year requiring that all new cellphones, computers, and smart gadgets sold in the nation come pre-loaded with Russian-developed software and apps. The decision, according to the administration, will help Russian tech companies compete with overseas competitors.