A Moscow court has said it was imposing a fine on Alphabet’s Google $98m for what it said was a repeated failure to delete content Russia deems illegal, the first revenue-based penalty of its kind in Russia.
Moscow has increased pressure on Big Tech this year in a campaign that critics characterise as an attempt by the Russian authorities to exert tighter control over the internet, something they say threatens individual and corporate freedom.
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Google said in an email it would study the court ruling on Friday before deciding on further steps.
Later on Friday, the court fined Meta Platforms $27.15m on the same grounds. Russia’s communication watchdog Roskomnadzor said that Facebook and Instagram failed to remove 2,000 pieces that violate Russian laws whereas Google keeps 2,600 pieces of banned content.
Meta Platforms did not immediately respond to request for comment.
Russia has imposed small fines on foreign technology companies throughout this year, but Friday’s penalties mark the first time it has exacted a percentage of a company’s annual Russian turnover, greatly increasing the sum of the fine.
It did not specify the percentage, although calculations by the Reuters news agency show Google’s fine equates to just over 8 percent.
Russia has ordered companies to delete posts promoting drug abuse and dangerous pastimes, information about homemade weapons and explosives, as well as ones by groups it designates as extremist or “terrorist”.
Google, which has paid more than $434,560 in fines over content violations this year, is at odds with Moscow on a number of issues.
Russia has demanded it restore access to state-backed broadcaster RT’s German-language channels.
Last week, a sanctioned Russian businessman claimed victory over Google in a court case that could see the tech giant hit with another heavy fine.
Moscow has also demanded that 13 foreign and mostly US technology companies, which include Google and Meta Platforms, be set up on Russian soil by January 1 or face possible restrictions or outright bans.