Russia Steps Up Pressure on Google With $98 Million Fine

Bloomberg – A Russian court slapped Alphabet Inc.’s Google with a fine of 7.2 billion rubles ($98 million) Friday for failing to remove banned content, the largest such penalty yet, as the authorities escalate a crackdown on foreign technology companies.The Moscow court cited the company’s repeated failure to comply with orders to take down content. The fine was calculated based on Google’s revenue, it said.

Google is studying the ruling and then will determine its next steps, the company’s press service in Moscow said in a statement.

Russia is intensifying its fight against foreign internet and social media companies in this “campaign to protect its digital sovereignty”, according to the government. To force Google Inc. and Twitter Inc. companies to remove posts encouraging illegal protests, and to slow content down, regulatory authorities have issued fines.
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Tech companies are being forced to adhere to increasingly stringent laws regarding localizing data storage by the government. After threats from the authorities to detain their staff, Google Inc. and Apple Inc. took a Russian protest voting app out of their Russian shops during the parliamentary elections.

However, penalties for failing to delete content are generally small until the most recent ruling. In September, Russia’s federal communications watchdog said companies that did not delete content could face fines of 5% to 20% of their annual local revenue.

According to Spark-Interfax, Google made Russian revenues of around 85 billion rubles in 2020.

“For some reason, the company fulfills decisions of American and European courts unquestioningly,” Anton Gorelkin, a ruling party deputy in the lower house of parliament who sits on the Information Policy committee, wrote on Telegram Friday. “If the turnover fine doesn’t bring Google to its senses, I’m afraid that some very unpleasant measures will be taken.”

Friday’s ruling is the latest legal blow to Google in Russia, after a Moscow appeals court this month upheld an April ruling that ordered the U.S. technology giant to restore Tsargrad’s YouTube account or face escalating fines. In nine months, fines may reach 1,000,000 rubles.

Since its unsuccessful attempt to block Telegram many years ago, Russia is becoming more bold when it attempts to limit technology companies. A 2019 law has been passed by authorities that allows Russia to disconnect completely from the internet.

–With assistance from Vladimir Kuznetsov and Yuliya Fedorinova.


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