Facebook Complies With Russia’s Demands To Delete Banned Content, But Could Still Face Fine, Reports Say

Facebook has acted in accordance with Russian demands by removing some content deemed illegal by Russia. But the tech giant could still face a heavy fine as it hesitated before complying, the Vedomosti newspaper reported, citing Russia’s communications watchdog.

Last week, Vedomosti reported that Facebook faced the threat of being fined up to 10 percent of its annual Russian turnover, over a repeated failure to take down content that Russia deems illegal. Roskomnadzor –Russia’s federal communications regulator, said in an email that companies that refuse to delete banned content could soon face amends of 5 to 20 percent of their annual local revenue.

For a number of companies that have systematically refused to comply with the agency’s legal demands, the issue of fines on revenue is being considered in the near future, Roskomnadzor said. The move to comply could be a sign that Facebook is giving in to the pressure. A Roskomnadzor official noted that some banned content still remain undeleted. A total of 1,043 items currently remain undeleted on Facebook, and 973 on Instagram, the official said.

Earlier this year, Roskomnadzor instructed Facebook and other social media firms to delete contents containing what it said were calls for minors to participate in anti-government protests, after the arrest of jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny. Russian information outlets have also reported that Facebook’s violations include failing to remove posts containing child pornography and promoting drug abuse.

It’s crystal clear that the Russian government is not slowing down in its efforts to control access to information in the country. Rather, it has intensified its efforts to control information in the country and has taken aggressive measures to control foreign tech companies, as part of a continued struggle to exercise greater sovereignty over its segment of the internet.

According to Human Rights Watch, a series of laws and regulations introduced between 2018 and 2019 expanded Russian authorities ability to filter internet content automatically. The government required internet service providers to install equipment that can block websites, and it has also sought to restrict citizens’ access to virtual private networks –tools that are used to circumvent censorship and protect anonymity online. Facebook, as well as other foreign technology companies, including Twitter and Google, have since been targeted for not deleting content unapproved by the Russian authorities.

This year alone, Roskomnadzor has opened 19 different administrative cases against Facebook for failing to delete banned content. The fines, some of which are still being appealed, amount to almost 70 million roubles, court documents show.

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