Google came under fire from Russian authorities yet again on Monday for the company’s ongoing flubs in removing content that the country had deemed illegal. Specifically, according to an official Telegram post from the Roskomnadzor, Russia’s telecom regulator, the company had failed to pull down clips from Russian YouTube that promoted “extremism and terrorism,” and anti-Russian propaganda centered on the country’s ongoing war with Ukraine. For these failures, Google’s being charged just over 21 billion rubles — or about $US364 ($505) million USD.
Right now, YouTube is the last Western platform still standing in Russia following the country’s crackdown on Facebook and Twitter this past March over the two platform’s failure to pull content deemed to contain “misinformation” about the war in Ukraine. But while Russian authorities have fully banned Facebook and Instagram and restricted most citizen’s access to Twitter, officials have made it pretty clear that there are no plans to axe access to the video-streaming platform — at least not yet.
People have come up with different theories for why Russian authorities just can’t quit YouTube, but the prevailing one is that the platform is simply too sophisticated to recreate on Russian soil. Facebook and Twitter, meanwhile, were quickly replaced with the popular Russian social network VK and the somewhat questionable messaging app Telegram, respectively.
Russian authorities might not be willing to fully give Google the boot, but they haven’t made things easy for the tech giant, either. Earlier this year, Russian bailiffs seized 7.7 billion roubles — about $US143 ($199) million — from the company’s bank accounts after it had failed to cough up a fine it had been issued over alleged anti-Russian content last year.
Alphabet, Google’s parent company, is worth some $US1.5 ($2) trillion, but the Russian government’s fines have been enough for Google’s Russian wing to file for bankruptcy in their immediate wake.
According to Roskomnadzor’s announcement, filing for bankruptcy didn’t stop the platform from promoting the same anti-war content that got it into this expensive mess in the first place. Aside from “misinformation” about the ongoing battle with Ukraine, the announcement alleges YouTube was also hosting appeals — including appeals to minors — to “participate in unauthorised mass actions,” presumably to protest that same war. Roskomnadzor also said the company was hosting content that promoted “an indifferent attitude to the life and health of minors,” whatever the heck that means.
We’ve reached out to Google about the latest round of fines, and will update here when we hear back.