Russia has fined Google about US$373 million for allowing users to access, “prohibited” material about the war in Ukraine and other restricted content. The material was said to include materials attempting to discredit Russia’s military, as well as exhortations to protest the Russian government, according to Roskomnadzor, the country’s communications regulator. It added that the company has proven a “systemic” violator of national laws regarding content.
Google has not commented on the fines.
The company’s local subsidiary had declared bankruptcy last month after Russian authorities had seized its bank account to recover 7.2 billion rubles, or US$130 million which the company had been fined for similar violations last year.
The moves are part of a broader regulatory push by the Russian government to place pressure on tech firms, which they accuse of not moderating their content in accordance with Russian laws, and of trying to meddle in the nation’s internal affairs.
This effort has accelerated since Russia launched military operations in Ukraine in February. Around that time the government also passed a law which threatened those who spread fake information about the war with 15 years in prison.
Google, and its parent company Alphabet, had ceased offering commercial services like advertising in Russia in March, following the conflict in Ukraine creating international consternation. It also increased restrictions it placed on Russian news companies, and relocated its staff outside of Russia.
However in Russia, many smartphones depend on Google’s technology, so unlike facebook, the company has not yet been completely banned.
In March Alphabet defended their decision to continue offering services in Russia, saying that by continuing to offer Russian citizens its search, maps, and youtube services, it was providing Russians with “global information and perspectives.”
Russian state media noted that the fine imposed on Google, which had been calculated as a share of the company’s local revenue, was the largest fine ever imposed on a tech company.