Google is facing an ultimatum in Russia.
On Monday, Russia’s Federal Service for Supervision of Communications, Information Technology and Mass Media, Roskomnadzor, gave Google 24 hours to remove restricted and illegal content. It has cautioned that failing to do so would result in fines of up to $54,000, and a slowdown of Google services in the region.
It has told Google to unblock a YouTube video posted by the state-run Sputnik France website. Google has also been accused by the agency of censoring Russian media outlets, including state-owned entities such as RT and Sputnik.
According to the Russian internet watchdog, Google has neglected to delete 20-30% of links to material that is illegal in Russia, including 26,000 instances of illegal content that have been reported to the search giant.
“This censorship of Russian media and the targeted support for illegal protest activity actually speak to the political colouring of Google’s activities in Russia. Google is not not [sic] fully complying with its obligation to exclude from its search results in Russia links to internet sites with information prohibited in our country,” Roskomnadzor told the state-run TASS news agency.
It said a repeat offense could result in a fine of up to 10% of the company’s total annual revenue.
This isn’t the first time Russia has tried to take action against a tech firm in the West. The country throttled Twitter in March for failing to remove blocked material quickly enough. Roskomnadzor threatened to shut down the website if the company did not comply with the order.
“After Twitter, at the request of Roskomnadzor, removed 91 per cent of the prohibited information, Google came out on top in the amount of unreleased illegal content that directly harms Russian users,” the agency added.
“Roskomnadzor sent more than 26 thousand notifications to the Google administration about the need to delete illegal information. If, after notifying Roskomnadzor, the internet platform does not restrict access to prohibited information within 24 hours, it will be fined in the amount of 800 thousand to four million rubles.”
The ultimatum came just hours after it was revealed that Google had filed a complaint against Roskomnadzor in the Moscow Arbitration Court over its earlier demands that YouTube delete 12 videos that Russia claims encourage minors to engage in illegal rallies as Russians took to the streets to show their support for imprisoned Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny..
Navalny and his supporters have made extensive use of YouTube to broadcast corruption charges against senior Russian officials and to coordinate their opposition activities.
Nearly 6.5 million people have subscribed to the YouTube channel of President Vladimir Putin’s harshest critic.
In recent months, Google and Russia have been at odds about a number of issues. YouTube has blocked the pro-Kremlin, conservative Tsargrad TV channel and deleted videos from state-run RT that it claims promote coronavirus disinformation. Google is also being investigated by Russia’s antitrust authorities for allegedly abusing its market dominance.
Last week, Russian lawmakers proposed a bill that would require international technology firms to open offices in Russia if they wished to advertise with Russian companies. Russia has also passed legislation requiring all smartphones sold in the country to come pre-installed with Russian-made applications such as browsers and search engines.