Facebook’s servers in Russia could be at risk, after a court in Moscow authorised the use of state bailiffs on Thursday.
The Russian bailiffs will be used to enforce the collection of 26 million roubles ($361,400) in fines imposed on Facebook for failing to delete content that Russia deems illegal.
On Wednesday it emerged that Facebook had complied with some of Russia’s demands to delete some banned content from its platform.
But Russia’s communications regulator Roskomnadzor said Facebook had only partially heeded its calls to take down banned content, and had also been slow to do so.
Therefore it will still be fined.
Facebook and Instagram had apparently 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
Roskomnadzor 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.
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).
Facebook has so far failed to pay any fines, Roskomnadzor has said.
Now Reuters has reported that Moscow’s Tagansky District Court has issued the bailiff recovery order over eight fines that Facebook has not paid, the court said in a statement.
Facebook did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
In June this year, Russia’s state Duma (parliament) passed legislation that would oblige US tech giants to open local offices in Russia by January 2022.
Failure to due so will result in “punitive measures”.
It is not thought that Facebook (or any US social network) has compiled yet with this Russian demand to open a Russian office, so it is unclear how the bailiffs hope to be able to recover the funds.
However since 2014, Russia has required foreign IT giants to store the personal data of Russian citizens on servers located in Russia itself, so that server equipment could be at risk.
Roskomnadzor for its part is now seeking to impose a much bigger fine on Facebook that would total 5-10 percent of the company’s annual turnover in Russia, due to what it alleges are repeated legal violations.
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 it $54m.
If Facebook opts to pay, of course.
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