Google and Meta have been fined heavily by a Russian court in recent weeks for failing to remove content from their platforms that the country deems illegal under current legislation.
Google was slammed with a fine of 7.2bn roubles, approximately $98m, while Facebook-owner Meta was fined 2bn roubles, or approximately $27.15m, according to Reuters.
The fines come as the Russian government cracks down on tech companies, especially ones based in the US. Authorities have told companies to remove content considered to be promoting drug abuse, dangerous pastimes and extremist activities, threatening individual and corporate freedom in the country.
Russia’s communication watchdog found that Facebook and Instagram had failed to remove 2,000 pieces of content that violated local laws, while Google was responsible for 2,600 banned items. Twitter also faced a smaller fine in Russia last year for similar violations.
The fines levelled against Google and Meta at the end of December were the first in Russia to be calculated as a percentage of the companies’ revenues in the country rather than an arbitrary sum – marking a step up in the state’s efforts to get Big Tech in line.
Last month Konstantin Malofeev, a Russian businessman and ally of president Vladimir Putin, claimed that he won a court case against Google that could see the company slammed with another heavy fine. The case was an appeal by Google against a Russian court order to unblock the YouTube account of Tsargrad TV, an Orthodox Christian channel owned by Malofeev.
Financial fines are not the only way Russia has been cracking down on tech. A 2019 law implemented last year has made it compulsory for smartphones, computers and TVs to come pre-installed with Russian software, according to The Verge. Companies with websites that have more than 500,000 daily visitors in Russia will also have to open an office in the country.
Last year, following pressure from Russian officials, Google and Apple removed a voting app from their stores. The app was created by allies of opposition leader Alexei Navalny and helped users with information on how to vote out incumbent politicians.
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