In March the Russian communications authority threatened to slow down access to Twitter in the country as the social media platform did not remove tweets with content that it deemed illegal. Now Google is coming under the same threats from Russia, with Reuters reporting that the country’s watchdog, Roskomnadzor, sent more than 26 000 calls to the company demanding content be removed.
While unconfirmed by third parties, the illegal content in question is said to contain information, including videos on drugs or violence and material from what the Russian government classifies as extremist organisations.
Along with slowing down citizen’s access to Google services and platforms, should the company not comply with the demand, fines could also be imposed. An initial fine for failing to comply could range between ₽800 000 to ₽4 million (Roubles), with a second offence potentially seeing a fine equal to 10 percent of the company’s annual revenue being issued.
Whether the threats of fines is truly enforceable remains to be seen, especially as we are not dealing with antitrust infringements, which is something that Google is regularly fined for in the EU.
On top of the failure to remove illegal content, the Roskomnadzor is also accusing Google of censorship on its platforms, particularly as it pertains to the visibility of Russian media.
“This censorship of Russian media and the targeted support for illegal protest activity actually speak to the political colouring of Google’s activities in Russia,” it adds.
For its part, it looks like Google is suing the Roskomnadzor over the demands to remove content, in particular 12 YouTube links, according to Reuters, one of which includes a channel critical of Putin that has amassed roughly 6.5 million subscribers.
With Twitter refusing to acquiesce, it remains to be seen if Google will bend the knee. A hearing for the lawsuit is scheduled for 14th July, so we will have to wait to see how this situation develops.
In the interim, should access to services and platforms be slowed down by the Roskomnadzor, it will be the Russian people who suffer greatest, so expect plenty of VPNs to be employed.