Russia fines Google over content, bigger penalty looms

FILE PHOTO: Google app is seen on a smartphone in this illustration taken, July 13, 2021. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic//File Photo

MOSCOW (Reuters) -Russia fined Alphabet's Google 9 million roubles ($121,000), a Moscow court said on Tuesday, in the latest in a string of penalties against the technology giant for failing to delete content the government deems illegal.

Moscow has increased pressure on foreign tech companies this year in a campaign that critics characterise as an attempt by the authorities to exert tighter control over the Internet, something they say threatens to stifle individual and corporate freedom.

Google and Meta Platforms both face court cases this month for repeated violations of Russian legislation on content and could be fined a percentage of their annual revenue in Russia.

Moscow's Tagansky District Court on Tuesday said Google had been fined a total of 9 million roubles in three separate administrative cases for not deleting content.

The court cited legislation which said this may include posts containing extremist activities, child pornography or the promotion of drug use.

Google did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Google has paid more than 32 million roubles in fines this year and has significantly reduced the number of posts prohibited by Moscow, the company and Russia have said.

Russia has slowed down the speed of Twitter since March as a punitive measure for not removing banned content. Twitter denies allowing its platform to be used to promote illegal behaviour.

Moscow has also demanded that 13 foreign and mostly U.S. technology companies set up in Russia by Jan. 1 or face possible restrictions or outright bans.

On Monday, state communications regulator Roskomnadzor said service slowdowns and blocks were seen as a last resort for this offence.

($1 = 74.3900 roubles)

(Reporting by Alexander Marrow and Anton Kolodyazhnyy; editing by Kirsten Donovan and Jason Neely)

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