By RFE RL
(RFE/RL) — Russia’s communications watchdog, Roskomnadzor, has given Google 24 hours to delete what it said was prohibited content as it faces the possibility of a punitive slowdown measure on it.
Google faces a fine of up to 4 million rubles ($54,300) if the company does not respond to Roskomnadzor’s May 24 notifications about the removal of prohibited information within 24 hours, the watchdog was quoted as saying by TASS.
Roskomnadzor said that YouTube, which is owned by Google, did not remove about 5,000 “prohibited” videos, out of which some 3,500 incite “extremism.”
“To date, about 5,000 banned materials have not been removed from YouTube. Most of all — 3,500 — with calls for extremism. More than 900 materials recognized as banned by the court,” the watchdog said.
“Roskomnadzor sent more than 26,000 notifications to the management of Google about the need to delete illegal information. If, after receiving the Roskomnadzor notification, the Internet platform does not restrict access to prohibited information within 24 hours, it will be fined 800,000 to 4 million rubles,” TASS quoted the watchdog as saying.
“In case of a repeated offense, the amount of the fine will be increased to one-10th of the total amount of the company’s annual revenue.”
Google Russia did not immediately comment on the demand by Roskomnadzor.
Russia has already placed a punitive slowdown on U.S. social network Twitter for not deleting banned content, part of a push by Moscow to rein in Western tech giants and beef up what it calls its Internet “sovereignty.”
Roskomnadzor claimed that the content it wanted removed included videos of how to buy drugs, scenes of cruel animal killings, videos calling for violence, and materials from terrorist and extremist organizations.
“Google does not fully fulfill its obligation to ban links to Internet resources with information prohibited in our country from search results in Russia. On average, from 20-30 percent of links to content prohibited in Russia are not removed from search results, including websites of terrorist and extremist organizations, websites with pornographic images of minors, as well as online stores selling drugs,” the regulator’s spokesperson told TASS.
On May 20, the Russian arm of Google appealed a court ruling that its YouTube unit unblock the accounts of the Tsargrad TV channel in Russia and its former chief editor, pro-Kremlin analyst Aleksandr Dugin.
Google said on May 20 it was appealing a decision last month by the Moscow Arbitration Court that ruled it must restore Tsargrad’s account or face a daily fine of 100,000 rubles.($1,360). Failure to comply would result in a doubling of the fine each week, the court said.
Google said in July 2020 that the accounts were blocked due to the violation of laws on sanctions and trade regulations.
In January and early February, a series of massive anti-government rallies actively promoted on platforms such as Facebook, YouTube, and TikTok ushered in an intensified push to fine-tune the online censorship apparatus.
In 2019, Russia passed a “sovereign Internet” law that gives officials wide-ranging powers to restrict online traffic, up to the point of isolating the country from cross-border Internet connections during national emergencies.
Moscow has repeatedly warned that it is ready to use the new measure if unrest were to reach a serious scale.