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Russia Threatens Facebook With Massive Fine Unless It Removes Banned Content

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Russian authorities Thursday threatened to fine Facebook unless the tech giant removes content deemed illegal by the Russian government, signaling Moscow’s commitment to further crack down on social media.

Roskomnadzor, Russia’s technology and telecommunications regulator, told Reuters it would send representatives to Facebook threatening the tech giant with a fine of up to 10% of its Russian annual revenue due to the company’s repeated failures to remove banned content. The regulator told Russian newspaper Vedomosti that Facebook had failed to remove traditionally illegal content such as child pornography, as well as politically extremist content.

Russia declared groups linked to dissident and Vladimir Putin critic Alexei Navalny “extremist” in June, outlawing Navalny-adjacent political parties and freezing his supporters’ bank accounts. Navalny is currently serving a two-year prison sentence and was the victim of a poisoning attack in September 2020.

Russia had threatened Facebook and Google parent company Alphabet with fines up to 20% of their annual Russian revenue in mid-September, Bloomberg reported, after the tech giants refused to censor content on behalf of Russia.

The threat is the latest development in Moscow’s ongoing effort to bring U.S. tech companies under its control.

The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said Wednesday it plans to block Russians’ access to YouTube after the video platform removed two state-backed channels for spreading COVID-19 misinformation. YouTube Chief Executive Officer Susan Wojcicki also failed to deny allegations that the company had removed Navalny-related content from its platform.

Apple and Google removed a voting app linked to Navalny from their app stores in mid-September, under threat of prosecution from Russian authorities. The app was used by Navalny supporters to coordinate voting campaigns, and was removed ahead of Russia’s parliamentary elections.

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