Russia fines Google, Meta record $125 mn over banned content

Russia fines Google, Meta record $125 mn over banned content

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Moscow: A Moscow court on Friday slapped Google with an unprecedented fine of nearly $100 million, while Meta (formerly Facebook) received a fine of $27 million.

In recent years Russia has been piling pressure on Western social media giants, with President Vladimir Putin saying those companies were becoming as influential as elected governments.

Moscow has repeatedly taken legal action against them for allegedly not moderating their content properly and interfering in the country’s affairs.

But so far, the fines imposed on Facebook’s parent company Meta and Google have reached tens of millions of rubles instead of billions of rubles.

However, on Friday, the Moscow court fined Google a record 7.2 billion rubles ($98 million), while Meta (formerly Facebook) was fined 1.9 billion rubles ($27 million) for repeatedly failing to delete illegal content.

“For the first time, a Russian court has imposed fines that make up a share of the annual revenue of these companies in Russia,” Russia’s state communications regulator Roskomnadzor said in a statement.

The regulator said that Google and Meta had “ignored multiple demands” to remove materials that incite religious hatred and promote views of “extremist and terrorist organisations”, among other violations.

Kremlin critics have accused authorities of muzzling independent media, saying now the government is zeroing in on the internet, considered the last bastion of free speech in Russia.

The Western media giants have denied any violations in the past.

“We’ll study the court documents and then decide on next steps,” Google’s press service told AFP on Friday. There was no immediate comment from Meta.

On Thursday, Twitter was fined 3 million rubles ($40,000) after the authorities began restricting its services in the spring.

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