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Google and Telegram face hefty fines for not playing ball with Russia over illegal content

The fines are part of a larger crackdown waged by Russian authorities on US tech giants.

Once again, a Russian court has fined Telegram and Google millions of rubles (Russian currency) for violating its internet laws by not removing banned content from their platforms, according to a Reuters report. Telegram has been fined four million rubles and Google has been fined 2 million rubles, the report added.

While the violations by Google and Telegram aren’t exactly clear, this isn’t the first time they have been fined by a Russian court. Several other tech giants have also borne fines in the country which has recently enforced laws that require social media companies to take down content deemed illegal under Russian law as well as comply with government requests for content takedowns within 24 hours or face fines.

Reuters reported that Google alone has been levied more than 32 million rubles in previous fines and its failure to clear them has led to threats from a Russian regulator of a fine amounting to 5-20% of Google’s turnover in the country.

Russia’s crackdown on Big Tech

March 2021: Russian internet regulator Roskomnadzor announced that access to Twitter will be slowed down in the country due to the platform’s inaction in taking down content inciting minors to self-harm or commit suicide.

May 2021: Twitter, Google, and Tiktok were fined 19 million, 4 million, and 1.5 million rubles respectively for not removing banned content.

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July 2021: Russia passed a set of new rules which force foreign tech companies with more than ‘500,000 visitors a day’ to open local offices.

August 2021: Facebook, Twitter, and WhatsApp were reportedly fined 36 million rubles for failure to store Russian users’ data locally. In the same month, Facebook was fined 17 million rubles for not removing ‘banned information’, according to Russian news agency Rapsi.

September 2021: The Russian government published plans to tax foreign-owned tech firms that were operating in Russia, and in July, the country operationalised a law that required foreign tech firms to open local offices.

That month, Apple and Google reportedly removed the ‘Smart-Voting app’ launched by Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny from their respective app stores after the government accused the tech giants of meddling in their elections.

October 2021: Roskomnadzor said that it would levy a turnover fine (similar to the one Google might face) on Facebook for repeated violation of Russia’s internet laws.

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I cover health technology for MediaNama but, really, love all things tech policy. Always willing to chat with a reader! Reach me at anushka@medianama.com

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