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Russia fines Google 6 mln roubles for failing to delete content deemed ‘illegal’

Published: Updated:

A Russian court on Tuesday said it had handed US technology giant Google three separate fines totaling 6 million roubles ($81,810) over a failure to delete content that Moscow deems illegal.

The fines come amid a wider spat between Moscow and Google. Russia’s communications watchdog on Monday warned that Moscow could eventually slow down the company’s traffic in the country if it failed to delete prohibited content.

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Google was found guilty of administrative offences, Moscow’s Tagansky District court said in a statement, and was ordered to pay 2 million roubles for each offence.

A repeat offence would be punishable by a fine of up to 10 percent of the company’s total annual revenue, Roskomnadzor said.

Russia’s communications watchdog on Monday warned Google that Moscow could eventually slow down the company’s traffic in the country if it failed to delete prohibited content.

Google Russia did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Russia has already placed a punitive slowdown on US social network Twitter for not deleting banned content, part of a push by Moscow to rein in Western tech giants and beef up what it calls its internet “sovereignty.”

The watchdog, Roskomnadzor, said it had sent more than 26,000 calls to Google to remove illegal information, including videos containing information on drugs or violence and material from what it called extremist organizations.

Roskomnadzor also accused Google of censorship for allegedly restricting YouTube access to Russian media outlets, including RT and Sputnik.

“This censorship of Russian media and the targeted support for illegal protest activity actually speak to the political coloring of Google’s activities in Russia,” Roskomnadzor said.

Google’s Russian arm last week lodged an appeal against a Moscow court order obliging it to unblock the YouTube account of a Christian Orthodox news channel owned by a Russian businessman who is under US and EU financial sanctions.

Moscow court documents also showed on Monday that Google was suing Roskomnadzor over the demands it remove banned content.

Roskomnadzor said the lawsuit concerned 12 YouTube links to “unlawful content” which involved encouraging minors to join unsanctioned protests in January, when people across Russia took to the streets to support jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny.

Navalny and his allies have used YouTube widely to air graft allegations against senior Russian officials and to organize their opposition activities.

The YouTube channel of the staunch critic of President Vladimir Putin has close to 6.5 million subscribers.

Google filed its lawsuit on April 23, documents from Moscow’s Arbitration Court showed, but it was only accepted on May 11 after some administrative issues had been ironed out. A hearing is scheduled for July 14.

Read more: Russia, after protests, tells Google not to advertise ‘illegal’ events