Facebook Deletes Content Requested By Russia, But Will Still Be Fined

Russia has said on Tuesday that Facebook has complied with its demands to delete some banned content from its platform.

However, Moscow will still seek to fine the social networking giant 5-10 percent of its annual turnover in Russia due to ‘repeated legal violations’, Reuters reported.

In June this year, Facebook was fined a total of 17 million rubles ($234,731), over its failure to remove so called ‘banned content.’ But in total this year Facebook has been fined for 20 cases, totalling 70 million rubles ($966,700).

Russian compliance?

Facebook has so far failed to pay any fines, Roskomnadzor has said.

These fines against Facebook was somewhat ironic, considering that Facebook has previously named Russia for continuing to be the biggest peddler of disinformation on its platform.

But now according to Reuters, Russia’s communications regulator Roskomnadzor has said Facebook had only partially heeded its calls to take down banned content and had also been slow to do so.

The regulator will still ask a court to impose the fine, it told Reuters.

Facebook did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

It seems that Facebook and Instagram removed some content after Russia threatened to impose a fine based on Facebook’s turnover, Roskomnadzor said, but they should have done so within 24 hours of being notified originally to avoid the penalty.

The regulator also reportedly said Facebook had not taken down all the content that Moscow wanted removed, with 1,043 items still on Facebook and 973 on Instagram.

A court will determine the size of the Facebook fine and a date for the hearing will be set in due course, Roskomnadzor said.

Size of fine?

Roskomnadzor has alleged that Facebook’s violations included failing to remove posts promoting drug abuse and dangerous pastimes, information about homemade weapons and explosives, as well as ones by extremist or terrorist organisations.

It is estimated (although no confirmed) by experts that Facebook’s annual Russian turnover is approximately 12 billion roubles ($165 million). Some observers say Facebook’s Russian turnover could be as high as 39 billion roubles ($538 million).

If its Russian turnover is assumed to be $165m, a 10 percent fine could cost Facebook as much as $16.5 million.

However if Facebook’s Russian turnover is more like $538m, then a 10 percent fine could cost $54m.

Russian clampdown

It is not secret that Russia has ramped pressure on foreign tech firms in the past year, using a combination of punitive fines or slowing down their services.

Russia recently threatened to block YouTube in the country, after Google’s streaming division deleted the German-language channels of state-backed broadcaster RT (formerly Russia Today).

RT is a Russian state-controlled television network funded by the federal tax budget of the Russian government.

Earlier this year, Roskomnadzor wrote to Facebook and other social media firms to demand they remove posts containing calls for minors to participate in anti-government protests after the arrest of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny.

That pressure led Google and Apple to remove Navalny’s anti-government tactical voting app from their stores on the first day of a parliamentary election last month.

In March this year, the Russian government has used deep-packet inspection (DPI) technology to slowdown users’ access to Twitter.

Russia then extended this Twitter slowdown until mid-May.

Russia has also passed a number of restrictive laws governing the online world, not least of which was its so called ‘Sovereign Internet’ law that enables Russia to be cut off from the global Internet.

Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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