Home Tech & Gadgets Google firmly sanctioned by Russia: fine of 87 million euros

Google firmly sanctioned by Russia: fine of 87 million euros


Uhe record fine of 87 million euros was demanded by Russia from the Internet juggernaut, Google, accused of not having removed so-called “prohibited” content. The country’s growing pressure on digital giants is growing. In recent years, the Russian authorities have continued to tighten their control over the Internet, the last space in which critical voices of the Kremlin can still speak with relative freedom.

They regularly sanction large digital companies, especially foreign ones, accused of not erasing content condoning drugs, suicide and linked to the opposition. The fine of 7.2 billion rubles (87 million euros at the current rate) imposed by Google is, however, unprecedented in terms of its amount.

In a statement on Telegram, the press service of the courts of Moscow indicated that the Californian giant had been convicted of “recidivism”, because it did not remove from its platforms content considered illegal. The court did not specify what content it was. “We will study the court documents and then decide on the measures to be adopted,” Google’s press service told AFP, without further comment.

Fines, threats, blockings

This fine could be followed by another during the day against Meta (Facebook’s parent company), another digital heavyweight, tried by the same Moscow court. In October, the Russian telecoms gendarme, Roskomnadzor, threatened Meta to impose fines of up to “between 5% and 10% of the annual turnover” of its subsidiary in Russia, or hundreds of millions of euros.

In addition to pressure for fines, authorities have threatened to arrest Apple and Google employees in Russia if they do not cooperate, according to sources inside the groups. In September, just before the general elections, Moscow succeeded in this way in forcing these two companies, accused of “electoral interference”, to withdraw from their virtual stores in Russia the application of the imprisoned opponent Alexeï Navalny.

When we do not comply with their demands, the Russian authorities also resort to temporary or permanent blockades. Several sites linked to Alexeï Navalny, whose organizations have been recognized as “extremists” by the Russian courts, have been permanently blocked. In September, Russia also blocked six widely used virtual private networks (VPNs) allowing access to the growing number of banned websites.

For Putin, the Gafams want to control society

Since 2014, Russian law has also required web companies to store the data of their Russian users in Russia, legislation that has cost Facebook, Google, Telegram and WhatsApp messengers thousands of euros in fines. The authorities are also developing a controversial “sovereign Internet” system that will eventually allow the Russian Internet to be isolated by separating it from the major global servers. The Kremlin denies wanting to build a national network under control, as is the case in China, but this is what NGOs and opponents fear.

In January 2021, President Vladimir Putin ruled that the Internet giants were “in de facto competition with States”, denouncing their “attempts to brutally control society”. Russian power is finally strengthening its stranglehold on the champions of Russian digital technology.

Passed under the control of a subsidiary of the gas giant Gazprom, the Russian tech group VK, parent company of the first Russian social network “VKontakte”, announced in mid-December the appointment as CEO of Vladimir Kirienko, son of a close associate of Mr. Poutine.