Russian Watchdog Warns Facebook Of Hefty Fine

Russian internet © Pavel Ignatov Shutterstock 2012

Facebook warned it faces fine of up to 10 percent of its annual turnover in Russia, for failing to remove what officials call ‘illegal content’

Facebook’s operation in Russia remains under threat, after that country’s communication watchdog issued a fresh warning of a stiff financial penalty over ‘illegal content’.

In June this year, Facebook was fined a total of 17 million rubles, over its failure to remove so called ‘banned content.’ Facebook has apparently, so far failed to pay any fines.

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

Russia spy - Shutterstock - © gubh83

Roskomnadzor warning

But now Russian telecoms watchdog Roskomnadzor has warned the US social networking giant it faces a fine of up to 10 percent of its annual turnover in the country, unless it deletes content Moscow deems illegal, Reuters reported.

It should be noted that earlier this month Roskomnadzor restricted the operations in Russia of six VPN services, namely ExpressVPN, Nord VPN, and IPVanish VPN, as well as Hola!VPN, KeepSolid VPN Unlimited, and Speedify VPN.

However Roskomnadzor has told Reuters it was planning to send Facebook’s representatives in Russia an official notification saying it had repeatedly failed to remove banned information.

That, it said, could lead to a fine of 5 or 10 percent of Facebook’s annual Russian turnover unless the situation is remedied.

Facebook had no immediate comment.

It is estimated (although no confirmed) by experts that Facebook’s annual Russian turnover is approximately 12 billion roubles ($165 million).

A 10 percent fine could therefore cost Facebook as much as $16.5 million.

Russian clampdown

But 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.

This week Russia 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 earlier this month.

Since 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.