A Russian court has fined Google 21 billion rubles ($360 million) for failing to remove content concerning Russia’s military intervention in Ukraine, the nation’s telecommunications regulator has revealed.
The Moscow court said the Google-owned video platform YouTube had failed to block “false information” on the offensive in Ukraine, “extremist and terrorist propaganda” and content “calling on minors to participate in unauthorised demonstrations”.
The regulator, Roskomnadzor said that as this was a repeat conviction for Google hence the huge fine.
Russian authorities have increased pressure on Western social media firms in recent years with repeated fines and threats in a bid to remove criticism from the internet, the only source of free speech in Russia.
Like most of its Western rivals, Google recently quit the Russian market in protest against Russia’s military intervention in Ukraine.
According to Vladimir Zykov, an expert cited by Russian news agency Ria-Novosti, the fine is the largest ever imposed on a Western tech firm by a Russian court.
Russian authorities can impose on Google “as many fines as they wish, they won’t receive the money” as the firm has pulled out of the country, he said.
Russia’s internet regulator, Roskomnadzor branded the activities of Google and YouTube with the “terrorist” label in March, opening up the possibility they would be blocked in Russia, as have Twitter, Instagram and many independent media following the start of the military operation.
In Russia, the legal penalties for speaking out against the conflict has been increased with thise found guilty of spreading “false information” about the Russian military facing up to 15 years in jail.
Several journalists, some politicians and citizens have already been jailed on such charges.