Russia has dramatically escalated its long-running battle with Google after repeatedly accusing it and other major US-based internet platforms of ignoring Russian laws on obscenity as well as propaganda, with on Friday a Moscow court slapping an unprecedented fine of almost $100 million on Google.
The content under dispute which state media regulator Roskomnadzor has demanded the removal of includes pornographic material, as well as posts that reportedly promote drugs and suicide. Crucially the regulator and Kremlin officials have long charged Google with promoting politically subversive messaging with the intent to stir up protests in support of jailed dissident Alexei Navalny. Pro-Navalny protests groups were previously banned as “extremist” earlier in the year.
Essentially Russia has accused Silicon Valley-based internet companies of allowing themselves to be used as a hidden hand of US foreign policy inside Russia, also promoting controversial content like transgenderism among Russia’s youth – which is also outlawed under recent legislation related to ‘propagandizing’ minors with sexually explicit and corrupting material.
While there’s been prior instances of US social media companies being fined a handful of millions over the dispute before, this fine of 7.2 billion rubles, (or $98 million) is record-setting and clearly meant to send a resounding message and warning, but still a slap on the wrist compared to the total estimated $1.1 billion Google Russia earned in 2020.