A Moscow court on Tuesday fined Google $190,398 -- about 14 million roubles -- for violating Russian rules on banned content.
While the dollar amount is relatively small, the move reflects the government's stance on a U.S. company competing with Russia's biggest search engine, Yandex. It also reflects the government's stance on operating independently.
Share of Yandex in the search market in Russia -- including mobile -- averaged 59.7% in Q4 2020 -- up from 57.5% in fourth-quarter 2019 and 59.3% in third-quarter 2020, Yandex, Radar reported in its February financial results.
Yandex in February reported revenue in 2020 of nearly $3 billion (RUB218.3bn), up 24% compared with fiscal-year 2019, whereas Google generated revenue in Russia last calendar year of about 810 million (RUB60bn), according to one report.
Moscow’s Tagansky District Court this week said Google had been handed five administrative fines of 4 million roubles, 1.5 million roubles, 5 million roubles, 1.5 million roubles and 2 million roubles respectively, Reuters reported. The fines during the past year were levied due to reasons ranging from not deleting content to failing to localize user data.
In May 2021, Roskomnadzor, Russia's communications watchdog, gave Google 24 hours to delete content it deemed prohibited or face a fine. It also said Google would experience slower traffic speeds online in the country.
At the time, Roskomnadzor told Reuters that "if [Google] does not restrict access to the banned information within 24 hours, it will be fined between 800,000 roubles and 4 million roubles ($10,800-$54,000)."
A Google spokesperson confirmed the first two fines to Reuters. An appeal hearing is scheduled for September 20.
Several media sources reported on Monday that Tsargrad TV, a news channel owned by a Russian businessman, had abandoned talks with Google, which owns YouTube. The news channel accused Google of “dragging its feet in negotiations.”
Google’s lawyers did not engage in a constructive discussion, but said that Google deliberately prolonged the negotiation process.
In July, Reuters, citing RBC daily, reported that Russia disconnected from the Internet to test its security, although it’s not clear how long this lasted.
Russian State communications regulator Roskomnadzor said tests were aimed at improving the integrity, stability and security of Russia's internet infrastructure.