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Russia fines Google 11 million rubles for 'spreading fakes'

The Kremlin is increasingly squeezing the free flow of information online for Russians as its war with Ukraine continues

FPJ Web Desk | Updated on: Friday, April 22, 2022, 04:42 PM IST

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A court in Moscow has fined Google's parent company Alphabet Inc for failing to remove contentious videos.

The US tech giant was handed two fines totalling 11m roubles ($135,000) for "administrative violations". The Tagansky District Court in Moscow said the company had distributed inaccurate data about Russian troop losses and civilian casualties in Ukraine, according to TASS news agency.

One of the videos was said to show a phone conversation between Russian soldiers and their relatives back home. The troops were said to be complaining of casualties in their ranks.

Some foreign social media platforms, including Facebook and Instagram, have been blocked in Russia. YouTube, however, remains available.

Russia's communications watchdog has previously said it would take steps to punish Google for "spreading fakes" on YouTube, and had warned the US company it would be fined if it failed to comply.

Google has faced action from Russia before. It was fined 7.2bn roubles ($90m) roubles in December 2021for failure to delete content deemed illegal in Russia.

The TASS news agency said the fines pertained to what Moscow considers the distribution of inaccurate data about Russian troops losses and civilian casualties in Ukraine, as well as the distribution of video clips on YouTube produced by Ukrainian far-right groups such as the nationalist Azov battalion.

Russia sent tens of thousands of troops into Ukraine on Feb. 24 in what it called a special operation to degrade its southern neighbour’s military capabilities and root out people it called dangerous nationalists.

Ukrainian forces have mounted stiff resistance and the West has imposed sweeping sanctions on Moscow in an effort to force it to withdraw its forces.

The Kremlin is increasingly squeezing the free flow of information online for Russians as its war with Ukraine continues.

Russia has banned Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, for "extremist activities," while carving out an exception for the company's WhatsApp messaging service. Using Twitter is getting harder too. TikTok is no longer letting people in Russia upload new material after the country passed a law criminalizing so-called "false information" about the invasion.

Other popular apps, like YouTube and messaging app Telegram, are still available and widely used.

Meanwhile, many Russians are outfoxing the bans by turning to virtual private networks, or VPNs, to access blocked social media networks and news sites. VPNs are widely used to get around internet restrictions in places like China. Demand for VPNs in Russia was 2,692% higher on Mar 14 than it was in the week prior to the invasion, according to Top10VPN, a privacy monitoring service.

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Published on: Friday, April 22, 2022, 04:42 PM IST