Google has again been fined millions in Russia. The US company failed to remove clips from the Russian YouTube platform that spread “extremism and terrorism” and anti-Russian propaganda in connection with the Ukraine war. This was announced by the Russian supervisory authority Roskomnadzor in an official Telegram post, as the tech blog Gizmodo reported on Monday. Google should therefore pay a little more than 21 billion rubles (about 364 million US dollars) fine.
According to Roskomnadzor’s announcement, YouTube has not only been spreading “misinformation” about the war in Ukraine, but has also been making calls – including to minors – to “participate in unauthorized mass actions”, presumably meaning anti-war protests.
In contrast, YouTube has blocked 70,000 videos and 9,000 channels for belittling the Ukraine war for violating the platform’s policy on violent events. Among them are videos that described the war as a “liberation mission” in the Kremlin’s view.
YouTube as the last survivor
YouTube is the last Western platform not blocked in Russia after Moscow cracked down on Facebook and Twitter in March this year. From a Russian perspective, both social networks had failed to delete content that was seen as “misinformation” about the war in Ukraine. At the beginning of the war, Russia made it a punishable offense to spread false information about its own armed forces.
While the Russian authorities have completely banned the meta-services Facebook and Instagram and restricted most citizens’ access to Twitter, the authorities only made it clear in mid-May that they do not want to block YouTube in the country. The reasons for this are not entirely clear. There are also no plans to decouple the Russian part of the Internet from the rest of the world, Moscow assured.
Again and again penalties against Google
Although the Russian authorities do not appear to be willing to ban Google completely, they have repeatedly imposed fines on the tech company. In March, Roskomnadzor ordered the news search engine Google News to be blocked. Google News referred to “numerous publications and materials” that contained “unreliable” information about the course of the war against Ukraine, the statement said at the time. In Russia, however, the talk is not of war but of a “special military operation”. Earlier, Google stopped its advertising business in Russia after the Russian government tried to influence the advertising business.
The action against Google and other Western tech companies did not just begin with the Ukraine war. At the end of November, a Moscow court fined Google for failing to delete content it deemed illegal. Back in August, a Russian court fined Google for the same reason.
Since the beginning of 2021, Russian courts have repeatedly fined tech giants such as Facebook, Google, Twitter and TikTok if they do not block or remove content from their platforms that is classified as illegal in Russia, including calls for prohibited demonstrations, or if they do not protect the data of Russian users Users do not store on servers in Russia. In mid-September, under pressure from Moscow, YouTube blocked a protest election video by Kremlin opponents. It remains to be seen how the video streaming service will react this time.