A Moscow court fined Google 21.1 billion rubles ($373 million) on Monday, accusing the company of repeatedly failing to delete information from its affiliated video-sharing platform, YouTube, that Russia considers unlawful, such as “fake news” concerning the war in Ukraine. Both Google and YouTube are owned by the tech conglomerate Alphabet Inc.
The decision was made on July 18 by the Magistrate court of the Tagansky District in Moscow. According to the report, Russia claimed Google “systematically” neglected to remove content authorities deemed illegal.
The penalty was determined as a percentage of Google’s yearly Russian revenue. The company received a similar 7.2 billion ruble ($73.39 million) fine late last year. The court stated this was Google’s second conviction, and the punishment was equal to a tenth of the profits the American company and its subsidiaries made in Russia, according to RFE/RL.
Roskomnadzor, the Russian federal executive agency responsible for monitoring, controlling, and censoring Russian mass media, stated that YouTube had not taken down “fakes about the course of the special military operation in Ukraine, discrediting the armed forces of the Russian Federation.”
Days after Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, Roskomnadzor instructed media outlets nationwide to only broadcast material on the conflict in Ukraine that was provided by authorized sources.
Additionally, the agency forbade calling the attack on Ukraine an “invasion” or a “war,” requiring instead that the conflict be referred to as a “special military operation.”
Roskomnadzor has been complaining about YouTube since March when it asked Google to cease the distribution of videos that it said were “threatening Russian citizens.”
Russia has cracked down on dissent over the past year, forcing the closure of most independent media outlets and restricting the free flow of information.
The deputy chairman of the parliamentary committee on information policy, Anton Gorelkin, asserted that Google openly disobeyed Russian law.
“It is not hard to predict what this attitude will lead to; Google risks losing the Russian market altogether,” he posted on Telegram, per Reuters.
While YouTube has drawn the ire of the Russian government, it has not yet been blocked like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and numerous independent media outlets operating in the country.
After some outlets were forced to halt or suspend operations due to the criminalization of reporting on the conflict in Ukraine, some Russian journalists departed the country. Since then, several journalists have launched their own YouTube feeds to cover and talk about the continuing conflict, according to RFE/RL.