Social media giants face million-dollar fines in Russia

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Western social media giants Telegram, Facebook and Twitter will be
called into a Moscow court this month where they will face fines of
nearly $1 million for refusing to remove “prohibited content,” Russian
media reported Saturday.

The companies will face a total of nine administrative offenses during
a hearing to held in the Tagansky district of Moscow on Sept. 14, the
government news agency Tass reported.

Facebook is facing five charges with a possible total fine of around
$550,000 while Twitter and Telegram face two charges each with fines
of more than $400,000.

The report didn’t detail which content the authorities considered
offensive, but the latest charges continue a recent pattern of Russian
censors clamping down on Western social media giants in the run-up to
legislative elections that begin Sept. 17.

Facebook has already been fined nearly $675,000 so far this year by
Roskomnadzor, Russia’s internet watchdog, including $200,000 last
month for allegedly failing to maintain servers in the country where
the data concerning Russian nationals is stored.

Twitter was fined $233,000 for “repeated violations” of the
localization requirement while Facebook-owned WhatsApp was fined
$55,000 under last week’s sanctions.

Meanwhile, Roskomnadzor on Thursday told Apple and Google they must
remove a “Smart Voting” app developed by opponents of President
Vladimir Putin which encourages voters to cast ballots against his
United Russia party.

The censor cited the app developers’ ties to jailed anti-corruption
activist Alexei Navalny, whose supporters have been designated as an
extremist organization, the Interfax news agency reported.

Navalny’s backers said in July that Roskomnadzor had blocked nearly 50
websites associated with the opposition leader for allegedly
disseminating “propaganda and the continuation of prohibited extremist
activities.”

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