Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

A Russian court has fined Google $98 million over its failure to remove content deemed illegal in the country. The 7.2 billion rouble fine is around eight percent of Google’s revenue in Russia, Reuters reports, and comes amid a broader push within the country to exert more control over big tech companies and the content people publish on their platforms.

Google tells The Verge it will “study the court documents when they are available and then decide on next steps.” However, a Russian official cited by Bloomberg threatened “very unpleasant measures” if Google doesn’t comply with the country’s mandate to delete banned content, which includes promotion of drugs and posts by organizations the government says are extremist or terroristic, including those associated with opposition leader Alexei Navalny.

Russian regulators have issued fines and mandates in an effort to control foreign tech companies

This isn’t Google’s first fine in Russia over its content moderation. It faces another that could double in size each week unless it reverses its ban on a conservative Russian news channel, though Google says the ban is due to US and UK sanctions against the channel’s owner. Companies like Twitter and Meta have also faced slowdowns to their services and fines based on their failures in moderating to Russian regulators’ standards.

Russian regulators have tried to pressure tech companies to comply in non-financial ways, as well. In 2019, the country passed a law that smartphones, computers, and TVs would have to come with software from Russian developers pre-installed, which went into effect earlier this year. Companies will also have to open offices in Russia if they run websites with over 500,000 daily visitors from the country. Russian officials have also leaned on Google and Apple to remove political opponents’ voting apps from their app stores by threatening to prosecute the companies’ locally-based employees.


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