Russia vs Big Tech: Heaviest fines yet, more to follow

A Moscow justice of the peace fined Google (Alphabet) $ 98.4 million (7.2 billion rubles), Meta fined $ 27 million (2 billion rubles) and Twitter fined lesser fine of $ 41,000 (3 million rubles) for failure. comply with local laws and remove prohibited content – all in just over a day’s work,

The fines were imposed on Thursday and last Friday by Russia’s state media regulator Roskomnadzor (the Federal Service for Surveillance of Communications, IT and Media), which said Meta’s Facebook and Instagram regularly failed failed to remove 2,000 items that violated Russian laws, while Google failed to remove 2,600 items of banned content, according to Reuters.

“Content subject to deletion ranges from pornography and messages promoting drugs and suicide to messages calling on Russians to demonstrate in support of jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny, whose groups have been banned as extremists ,??», Explains the Moscow Times.

This is the first time that Moscow has imposed turnover fines on large tech companies. Russian news agency TASS reports that fines for the above offenses can range from 1/20 to 1/10 of the company’s annual turnover. While Google reported revenue of $ 1.2 billion (85 billion rubles), the court reportedly set the amount of the fine independently.

New law added to string of fines

The heavy fines represent the latest round in a long battle that Moscow is waging against large (American) tech companies, which Russian President Vladimir Putin called in January “competing state monopolies”, warning against their attempts to run the company. by the substitution of “legitimate democratic institutions”. The crackdown has reached new levels over the past year.

As recently as last week, it was reported that Meta had paid a fine of nearly $ 230,000 (17 million rubles) for not removing the content, which had been imposed months earlier. This year alone, Google paid more than $ 434,000 (32 million rubles) for content violations (not including the latest), while Twitter’s share reached $ 792,000 (58 million rubles) and Meta (or Facebook) had to pay $ 1.2 million (90 M rubel). Telegram was also fined $ 139,000 (10 million rubles).

But that’s not all. There are also new rules and regulations. Last month, Roskomnadzor released a list of 13 foreign tech companies operating in Russia to establish official representation in the country by the end of 2021 – or face potential restrictions and even bans.

This list is in line with a new law that came into force in July, under which foreign social media companies with more than 500,000 daily users are required to open offices or establish a legal entity in Russia. The companies mentioned are Google, Meta (Facebook), Twitter, TikTok, Telegram, Apple, Zoom, Viber, Spotify, Likee, Discord, Pinterest and Twitch,

Another form of repression includes the falsification of technology. In March, Roskomnadzor announced that it was slowing the speed of Twitter, citing the platform’s failure to remove more than 3,000 items of banned content, most of which encouraged underage suicide.

“As you know, many countries are slowing down traffic; there are other ways as well, including blocking them completely, ”Putin said at his annual press conference, held on Thursday. “We are very reluctant to take such extreme measures, but if we are forced to do so, we will have to demand more from those working in this area and neglect the interests of Russian society.”

TASS quotes a recent parliamentary report on “Protecting State Sovereignty and Preventing Interference in Russian Internal Affairs”, which concludes that “few foreign IT companies have started to take specific measures to comply with the law, and from January 1, they would bear the responsibility for the possible consequences of non-compliance with Russian law.

Human rights watch: Internet in Russia turns into a “zone of repression”

Along with Friday’s fines, Human Rights Watch released a new report titled “Russia: A Year of Doubling Internet Censorship,” which provides a detailed overview of the many actions (only some of them are mentioned in this article) taken. by Russian authorities. in their attempts to “suppress freedoms on the Internet”.

“The Russian government is using its growing technological capacity to engage in non-transparent, illegal and extrajudicial restrictions on digital rights in Russia,” said Anastasiia Kruope, deputy researcher for Europe and Central Asia at the organization. “The dramatic crackdown on Internet freedoms over the past year is the culmination of many years of efforts by authorities to restrict the rights and freedoms of Russians online.

According to Kruope, “Russian authorities say they are working to protect the interests of Russian Internet users. Instead, they are quickly turning the internet in Russia into a crackdown. “

About Charles D. Goolsby

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