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Russian court fines Facebook, Twitter, Telegram for not deleting ‘banned’ content

Facebook (Dreamstime/TNS)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

A Russian court has fined U.S. social-media giants Facebook and Twitter and messaging app Telegram again for failing to delete content Moscow deems illegal.

The Magistrates Court in the Taganka district said on July 22 it had fined Facebook 6 million rubles ($81,000), Twitter 5.5 million rubles, and Telegram 11 million rubles ($149,000) on multiple protocols filed by Russia’s communications watchdog, Roskomnadzor.

Moscow claims it is trying to rein in Western tech giants and bolster what it calls its Internet “sovereignty.”

But many critics say the authorities are trying to quell dissent with parliamentary elections looming in September and the ruling United Russia party’s popularity slumping.

Several social-media giants have been embroiled in a broad dispute with authorities who say posts on their sites, among other things, encouraged minors to join unsanctioned protests in January, when people across the country took to the streets to support opposition politician and Kremlin critic Aleksei Navalny after he was detained on what he calls trumped-up charges.

Moscow is also seeking to force foreign firms to open offices in Russia and store Russians’ personal data on its territory.

Last month, the same court fined Facebook 17 million rubles and Telegram 10 million rubles for what it called “administrative offenses” after the two failed to remove content banned by Russia.

Twitter and the U.S. technology giant Google have also been fined previously for similar offenses.

Roskomnadzor imposed a slowdown on Twitter in March for posts the regulator said contained child pornography and encouragement of youth suicide — charges the U.S. platform dismissed as false.

Roskomnadzor partially lifted the delay in May but threatened to eventually slow down traffic for social-media companies if they fail to delete prohibited content.