This week, a Russian court fined Google over R6 billion, or $377 million, for failing to remove content regarding the Ukraine war that the nation views as “fake news.” In a press release announcing the decision, the Russian media watchdog Roskomnadzor praised Google’s YouTube for not limiting access to information.
Google “did not block access to a number of materials containing unlawful content,” claims Roskomnadzor. According to the regulator, this included information “discrediting the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation” and “fakes concerning the course of a special military operation in Ukraine.”
The Russian government also hit Google with a $100 million fine in December 2021 for what it claimed was a “systematic failure to remove banned content.” A $27 million charge was also levied at the time against Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram. A Russian court also penalized TikTok 3.5 million rubles ($20,000) in May 2021 for failing to regulate material on its network, according to businessinsider.co.za.
Although Facebook was shut down by the Kremlin in March, Google is still legal in Russia.
Four months after Russian President Vladimir Putin approved a law making any criticism of the crisis in Ukraine illegal and virtually outlawing the use of the phrase “war,” Google was hit with a new fine.
After the February invasion of Ukraine, efforts to censor social media and other news websites have intensified. Additionally, the government enacted a law that carries a 15-year prison sentence for anyone found spreading “false” information about the conflict.