Per reports, American tech giant Facebook is poised for higher fines in Russia over banned content. Russian newspaper Vedomosti, on Thursday, reported that Russia may seek to fine social media giant Facebook up to 10 percent of its annual turnover in the country for a repeated failure to take down content that Russia deems illegal.
Over the last year, the Russian government has intensified its efforts to rein foreign tech companies in, as part of a continued struggle to exercise greater sovereignty over its segment of the internet, including efforts to make companies store Russians’ personal data on its territory.
Roskomnadzor, the federal communications watchdog, said in an email that companies that refuse to delete content judged to be illegal in Russia 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,” the press service said, adding that it will also consider other means of enforcement. This year alone, Roskomnadzor has opened 19 different administrative cases against Facebook for failing to delete banned content, Vedomosti said, with 43 million ($591,000) rubles owed in fines, and more pending.
Over the years, Russia has taken aggressive measures to restrict online access to information in the country. 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. Foreign technology companies, such as Facebook, Twitter, and Google have since been targeted for not deleting content deemed illegal by Russian authorities, as well as for data-related offences.
In April, Twitter was accused of failing to delete banned content and was issued three separate fines which amounted to 8.9 million rubles ($121,000). In May, Google and Facebook were fined by Moscow’s Tagansky District Court for not deleting banned content. Facebook was fined 26 million rubles in total ($353,000), while Google was fined 6 million rubles ($82,000) for three different offences. In July, Google was fined 3 million rubles ($41,000) for refusing to store Russians’ personal data on servers in the country. In August, Google was fined another 2 million rubles ($26,989) over failure to remove banned content.
So far this year, Twitter has been fined 38.4 million rubles ($524,000), Google 26 million rubles ($357,000), and Facebook 66 million rubles (US$900,000), according to Roskomnadzor.