Russia May Fine Google up to $240 Million Over Content Deemed Illegal

Russia May Fine Google up to $240 Million Over Content Deemed Illegal
The logo of Russia's state communications regulator, Roskomnadzor, is reflected in a laptop screen showing Google start page, in this picture illustration taken on May 27, 2021. (Maxim Shemetov/Illustration/File Photo/Reuters)

Russia said on Tuesday it is seeking to fine Google more than $200 million after the U.S. tech giant repeatedly failed to remove content deemed illegal by Moscow.

Communications regulator Roskomnadzor said Google had failed to pay 32.5 million roubles ($458,100) in penalties levied so far this year and that it would now seek a fine of 5 to 20 percent of Google’s Russian turnover, which could reach as much as $240 million.

Roskomnadzor, Russia’s Federal Supervision Agency for Information Technologies and Communications, is the country’s service responsible for censorship in media and telecommunications.

Google did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Russia has increasingly penalized technology firms that fail to comply with Russian laws for a number of months.

In September, Russia urged Google and Apple to remove a tactical voting app from its online store that was linked to Kremlin critic and jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny as polls opened across the country for three days of voting in a parliamentary election.

NTD Photo
The Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny’s Smart Voting app is seen on a phone, in Moscow, Russia, on Sept. 16, 2021. (Shamil Zhumatov/Reuters)

The app is part of the “Smart Voting” project, which was created by a team of Navalny supporters. It was designed to organize a tactical voting campaign to channel votes opposing United Russia—President Vladimir Putin’s ruling political party.

That same month, Russian authorities also blocked access to the Smart Voting website, which aims to identify candidates who are in the strongest position in the Sept. 19 election in order to channel opposition votes. Some internet users were still able to access it.

Opposition activists have accused both tech firms of caving to Kremlin pressure after they removed the anti-government tactical voting app from their stores.

In early October, Roskomnadzor said it would ask a Russian court to impose a fine on Facebook of up to 10 percent of its annual turnover, citing legislation signed by President Vladimir Putin in December 2020.

The regulator told news agency Reuters in a statement on Oct. 19 that a similar case will be put together against Google.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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