Russia Fines Facebook, Twitter for Not Deleting Banned Content

By Reuters
September 14, 2021 Updated: September 14, 2021

MOSCOW—A Russian court on Tuesday said it had fined U.S. social media companies Facebook and Twitter for failing to delete content that Moscow deems illegal, part of a wider crackdown by Russia on the internet and Big Tech.

The Tagansky district court said Facebook had been handed five fines totaling 21 million roubles ($287,850). Twitter received two fines of a total of 5 million roubles ($68,550), it said.

Popular messaging app Telegram had been fined 9 million roubles ($123,390), the court said.

Facebook, Twitter, and Telegram had no immediate comment.

Moscow’s actions to strengthen its control of the internet have included a push to require foreign internet companies to open fully-fledged offices in Russia and to store Russians’ personal data on its territory.

On Tuesday, the government published plans to impose new taxes on foreign-owned digital services, a move aimed at supporting its domestic tech sector.

In March, state communications regulator Roskomnadzor started impeding the speed of Twitter for not removing banned material quickly enough.

Twitter logo and Russian flag
Small toy figures are seen in front of the Twitter logo and Russian flag colors in this illustration picture taken on March 15, 2021. (Dado Ruvic/Illustration/Reuters)

Internet services are coming under increasing pressure ahead of Russia’s Sept. 17-19 parliamentary elections. Roskomnadzor is trying to block virtual private networks (VPNs) and online resources linked to jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny.

The watchdog has tried to restrict access to an app that Navalny’s team plan to use to organize a tactical or “smart” voting campaign at the election. Navalny’s activist network was banned this summer during a political crackdown.

Russia’s federal bailiff service said on Tuesday it wanted to force Alphabet’s Google to comply with a court order banning references to the phrase “smart voting” in its keyword search system, the Interfax news agency reported.

State bailiffs came to an office block to confront local Google staff late on Monday, the Kommersant newspaper reported, citing a source. Google did not respond to requests for comment.

By Alexander Marrow