Moscow Court Fines Google Over Failing To Delete 'Banned Content' About Russia's Invasion Of Ukraine

A court in Moscow has ordered Google to pay an 11 million ruble ($134,500) fine over materials about Russia's ongoing unprovoked invasion of Ukraine on YouTube.

Judge Timur Vakhrameyev of the magistrate court of the Taganka district in the Russian capital ruled on April 21 that Google must pay a 4 million ruble ($50,000) fine for failing to delete as instructed what authorities had determined was banned content.

The judge also ruled in a separate case that Google must pay 7 million rubles ($87,000) for distributing materials produced by Ukraine's Azov military group and the Ukrainian far-right group Right Sector.

The court's rulings come two weeks after media regulator Roskomnadzor accused Google of violating Russian law, saying its YouTube video-sharing platform "turned into one of the key platforms spreading fake news" about the war Moscow launched against Ukraine.

Roskomnadzor said at the time that it will take punitive measures against the giant tech company, including an advertising ban on the platform and its information resources.

Last month, Roskomnadzor demanded Google stop the spread of videos on its YouTube platform that it said were "threatening Russian citizens."

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

It also has forbidden describing the conflict in Ukraine as a war or an invasion, 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.

On March 4, Roskomnadzor blocked Facebook, claiming the world's largest social media platform was discriminating against Russian media and information resources such as RT, RIA Novosti, and Sputnik.

A day later, President Vladimir Putin 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 Army 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