Google May Face Second Turnover Fine in Russia Over Banned Content, Warns Russian Regulator

Alphabet’s Google may face a fine of 5-10 percent of its turnover in Russia for what the state communications regulator said on Wednesday was a repeated failure to delete banned content, including “misleading information” on YouTube about events in Ukraine.

This is the second fine based on a percentage of turnover that Google could face in Russia. In May, Russian bailiffs seized more than 7.7 billion roubles ($143 million or nearly Rs. 1,100 crore) from Google that it had been ordered to pay late last year, marking the first time Moscow had exacted a percentage of the company’s annual Russian turnover.

Google, whose Russian subsidiary last week submitted a declaration of bankruptcy, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

“The video hosting site YouTube deliberately promotes the dissemination of misleading information about the progress of the special military operation in Ukraine, discrediting the armed forces of the Russian Federation,” regulator Roskomnadzor said.

It said the repeat offence could lead to a fine of 5-10 percent of annual turnover in Russia, with the amount to be determined in court. Reuters calculated that the previous fine equated to just over 8 percent of turnover.

Russia sent tens of thousands of troops into Ukraine on February 24, saying it had to defuse a threat to its security and protect Russian speakers from persecution, in what Moscow calls a “special military operation”.

Ukraine says it is fighting an illegal land grab by Russia.

Roskomnadzor also said YouTube had permitted content promoting extremist views and calls for children to participate in unauthorized protests.

The regulator said Google has now been fined a total of 68 million roubles, excluding turnover fines, and that more than 7,000 banned items remain on YouTube.

Russia has restricted access to Twitter and Meta Platforms’ flagship social networks Facebook and Instagrambut has not blocked Google.

A State Duma member earlier said YouTube and Google had not yet “crossed the line of reasonableness”, but were involved in the information war against Russia.

Russia has issued numerous fines to foreign technology companies in recent years for a range of infringements, in what critics say is an attempt to exert greater control over the internet.

© Thomson Reuters 2022