Russian Court Fines Google $370 Million Over 'Fake' Coverage Of Ukraine Invasion

A court in Moscow has ordered Google to pay a fine of 21.77 billion rubles ($373 million) over information distributed about Russia's unprovoked invasion of Ukraine on its YouTube video-sharing platform.

The Magistrate court of the Taganka district in the Russian capital pronounced the ruling on July 18. It said Google "systemically" failed to delete as instructed what authorities had determined was banned content.

It was the second conviction for Google and the fine was 1/10 of all the profit the U.S. Internet giant and groups associated with it earn in Russia, the court said.

Russia's media regulator, Roskomnadzor, said on June 22 that it filed a lawsuit against Google accusing it of repeated failure to comply with the Russian authorities' demands.

Roskomnadzor's complaints about YouTube date back to March when it demanded that Google stop the spread of videos on YouTube that it said were "threatening Russian citizens."

In April, Roskomnadzor issued the first fine, a considerably lower 11 million rubles ($188,500), saying YouTube "turned into one of the key platforms spreading fake news" about the war.

Days after Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine on February 24, Roskomnadzor ordered media across the country to publish only information about the war in Ukraine provided by official sources.

It has also forbidden describing what several Western governments have called an "unjustified and unprovoked" attack on Ukraine as an invasion or a war, instead insisting it be called a "special military operation."

Over the past year, Russia has intensified its crackdown on any dissent, forcing the closure of most independent media outlets and limiting the free flow of information.

President Vladimir Putin in March signed a law that calls for lengthy prison terms for distributing "deliberately false information" about Russian military operations as the Kremlin seeks to control the narrative about its war in Ukraine.

The law envisages sentences of up to 10 years in prison for individuals convicted of an offense, while the penalty for the distribution of "deliberately false information" about the Russian military that leads to "serious consequences" is 15 years in prison.

It also makes it illegal "to make calls against the use of Russian troops to protect the interests of Russia" or "for discrediting such use" with a penalty possible of up to three years in prison. The same provision applies to calls for sanctions against Russia.

Multiple websites of RFE/RL, the BBC, and other independent media outlets have been blocked over what Russian regulators claim is erroneous reporting.

Some Russian journalists have left Russia after their companies had to stop or suspend operations following the criminalization of the coverage of the war in Ukraine.

Several have since started up their own streams on YouTube to cover and discuss the ongoing war.

With reporting by TASS and Interfax