Russian court fines Alphabet’s Google and Meta platforms

MOSCOW, Dec.24 (Reuters) – A Moscow court on Friday announced it was fining Alphabet’s Google 7.2 billion rubles ($ 98 million) for what it called a repeated failure removal of content that Russia deems illegal, the first fine-based income of this kind in Russia.

Moscow has stepped up the pressure on big tech this year in a campaign that critics call an attempt by Russian authorities to exercise tighter control over the internet, which they say threatens the freedoms of individuals and businesses.

Google said in an email that it would study the court’s decision before deciding what action to take.

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Later on Friday, the court fined Meta Platforms 2 billion rubles ($ 27.15 million) on the same grounds. Russian communications watchdog Roskomnadzor said Facebook and Instagram had failed to remove 2,000 items that violated Russian laws, while Google retained 2,600 items of banned content.

Meta Platforms did not immediately respond to the request for comment.

Russia has imposed small fines on foreign tech companies throughout this year, but Friday’s sanctions mark the first time it has demanded a percentage of the annual turnover of Russian companies, dramatically increasing the amount of the fine.

He did not specify the percentages, although Reuters calculations show Google’s fine is equivalent to just over 8%.

Russia has ordered companies to remove publications promoting drug addiction and dangerous hobbies, information about homemade weapons and explosives, as well as those groups it identifies as extremists or terrorists.

Google, which has paid more than 32 million rubles in fines for content violations this year, disagrees with Moscow on a number of issues.

Russia has demanded that it restore access to the German-language channels of the public broadcaster RT. Read more

Last week, a sanctioned Russian businessman won over Google in a court case that could see the tech giant face another hefty fine.

Moscow also demanded that 13 foreign and mostly American technology companies, including Google and Meta Platforms, be officially represented on Russian soil by January 1, under threat of outright restrictions or bans. Read more

($ 1 = 73.3613 rubles)

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Reporting by Anton Kolodyazhnyy and Maria Tsvetkova; Writing by Olzhas Auyov; Editing by Kirsten Donovan, Barbara Lewis and Toby Chopra

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