Russia has fined Google 373 million USD for not restricting access to the material it deemed illegal, such as information about the war in Ukraine. Russia’s communications regulator, Roskomnadzor, called the tech giant a “systematic violator” of its laws. It said that the platform allowed fake reports discrediting the Russian military and articles encouraging people to protest. It specifically targeted YouTube and said its videos promoted extremism with calls for children to join protests. Google has not responded to the allegations yet.
YouTube Videos on the Topic of War in Ukraine
Russia also said that YouTube failed to stop posting false information about the war in Ukraine despite repeated orders. It warned YouTube in March to either remove videos that promote “extremist views”, or face a fine.
Russia said that YouTube did not delete such content but kept on discrediting Russian forces by creating a fake narrative. Even though this fine is just a small fraction of Google’s yearly income in the region, it is unlikely that the tech giant will pay.
Google’s local subsidiary declared bankruptcy in June 2022 after Russian authorities seized its bank account and took the 130 million USD they ordered the company to pay last year.
Can Russia Block Google As Well?
Google has stopped offering its commercial services, including advertising in Russia, since March 2022. Moreover, YouTube has been actively demonetizing Russian state-backed channels and restricting their access. It adds to the ire of Moscow, but it cannot completely ban Google in Russia as it did with other social media sites like Facebook. More than 70% of smartphones in Russia rely on Google’s technology (Android) to operate.
Google’s parent Alphabet said it would continue to offer some services in Russia, such as search engine, maps and YouTube, as they allowed access to “global information and perspectives”.
Russia Versus American Tech
Russia has increased pressure on the US tech firms in recent years, accusing them of interfering in internal matters. Last year, it also fined Facebook and Twitter for not deleting the “illegal” content. The efforts to restrict social media access escalated after Russia launched Ukraine invasion in February this year. Moscow also passed a law against those who spread fake information about War in Ukraine with 15 years in jail.
According to the reports, the tech firms have deleted some content following Russia’s pressure. In early 2021, Meta removed around 1,800 Facebook and Instagram posts at Moscow’s request. It categorized most of these deleted posts as “items related to extremism”. Google is famous for rejecting such requests, but lately, it has also started to delete search results and YouTube videos deemed undesirable by Russia.