Google and Meta fined millions in Russia for hosting banned contentVish Gainon January 4, 2022 at 10:42 Silicon RepublicSilicon Republic

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Google and Meta have been fined heavily by Russia in recent weeks for refusing to remove content from their platforms the state deems to be illegal under current legislation.

A whopping 7.2bn roubles, approximately $98m, was slammed on Alphabet’s Google 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 foreign tech companies, especially ones based in the US, to remove content it considers to be promoting drug abuse and extremist activities, threatening individual and corporate freedom in the country.

Russia’s communication watchdog found Facebook and Instagram guilty of failing to remove 2,000 content items that violate laws, while Google alone was responsible for another 2,600 banned items. Twitter, which has previously removed state-linked accounts from its platform, has also faced a smaller fine for similar violations.

The fines, unusually high compared to the many other fines placed on tech companies last year, were for the first time 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, Russian businessman and Putin ally Konstantin Malofeev 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 companies’ freedom. A 2019 law implemented last year has made it compulsory for smartphones, computer and TVs to come pre-installed with Russian software, according to The Verge. Moreover, any website that has more than 500,000 daily visitors in Russia will have to open an office in the country.

Google and Apple were also forced by Russian officials to remove a voting app dedicated to prominent opposition leader Alexei Navalny’s campaign, which helped users with information on how to vote out incumbent politicians.

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