Russian court fined Google 7.2 million roubles

A Moscow court fined Google 7.2 billion roubles ($98 million; £73 million) for failing to delete content deemed illegal in Russia on multiple occasions.The offending content was not specified in the court’s press service announcement.

This is the first time in Russia that a technology behemoth has been fined based on its annual revenue.Google told the AFP news agency that it would study the court decision before taking any further action.

Russian authorities have increased their pressure on technology companies this year, accusing them of not properly moderating their content and interfering in the country’s internal affairs.Hours after the Google verdict was announced, Meta, Facebook’s parent company, was fined 2 billion roubles for similar content-related violations.

Twitter was fined 3 million roubles earlier this week for similar offences.

This is not Google’s first run-in with Russian authorities regarding content laws. In May, Russia’s media watchdog threatened to slow Google’s speed if it did not remove 26,000 instances of illegal content related to drugs, violence, and extremism.

President Vladimir Putin has advocated for the creation of a “sovereign internet,” which would give the government greater control over what its citizens can access.Critics have accused Russia of using the campaign to stifle free expression and online dissent.

The country’s media regulator has blocked dozens of websites linked to imprisoned opposition leader Alexei Navalny’s campaign groups, which have been labelled “extremist.”

Google and Apple were also forced to remove an app dedicated to Navalny’s “Smart Voting” campaign, which provided users with tactical voting advice in order to unseat Kremlin-aligned politicians.

Websites such as LinkedIn and Dailymotion have already been blocked for refusing to cooperate with authorities, and six major providers of Virtual Personal Networks (VPNs), which allow users to hide their online activities, have been barred.

Russia also introduced a new law earlier this year requiring all new smartphones, computers, and smart devices sold in the country to come pre-installed with Russian-made software and apps.

According to the government, the move will help Russian tech firms compete with foreign rivals.

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