Russia may forcibly slow down Google services after the tech giant failed to remove 12 YouTube videos containing "illegal content" regarding unauthorized opposition rallies held in January 2021, according to the Moscow Times.
In response to demands by Russia's internet regulator Roskomnadzor to remove the 12 videos it says calls on minors to participate in unauthorized rallies, it has now emerged that Google filed its first-ever lawsuit against the regulator on April 23 in the Moscow Arbitration Court, which was accepted by the court on May 11. The first hearing is scheduled for July 14.
The case relates to content deletion requests Roskomnadzor sent to Google in January, when the regulator embarked on a high-profile campaign against a host of social media giants over a surge in the number of posts in support of jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny following his return and detention in Russia.
Roskomnadzor requested both foreign and Russian technology companies, including Facebook, VKontakte, TikTok, YouTube and Twitter, delete tens of thousands of posts, videos and pictures it said was in violation of Russian laws. Content that Russia deems illegal ranges from posts promoting drug use or featuring child pornography to posts it says encourage under-18s to attend mass rallies. -Moscow Times
Roskomnadzor, meanwhile, has also called on Google to unblock a video on state-run Sputnik France regarding the spread of COVID-19, hilariously claiming in a May 22 letter that "such actions by the YouTube video hosting administration violate the key principles of free dissemination of information, unhindered access to it and are an act of censorship against the Russian media."
"The department demands to remove all restrictions as soon as possible, as well as explain the reasons for their introduction," the letter continues.
Google-owned YouTube has also faced pushback from Russia for blocking the channel of pro-Kremlin, Tsargrad TV, along with removing state-run RT videos which Google claims promote COVID-19 disinformation.
Russia’s competition authorities are also investigating Google for alleged abuse of its market dominance, and have sought to oust foreign companies’ dominance of the Russian software market through laws requiring Russian-made apps, such as browsers and search engines, to be pre-installed on all smartphones sold in Russia.
The regulator is also forcibly slowing-down Twitter and previously said it was prepared to ban the social media platform if it did not comply with Russia’s requests to remove content. -Moscow Times
"Recently, government agencies have stepped up their demands to remove content from Google's websites, and the list is constantly widening, so the company has to react, defending its interests," said Yekaterina Abashina, an attorney for Russian digital rights NGO Roskomsvoboda (via TASS).
Another attorney, Alexy Gavrishev, thinks "Google deliberately filed a lawsuit on behalf of the parent company ... in the hopes of challenging decisions in other jurisdictions, for example in a European court."
In December, Russia fined Google 3 million rubles (around USD$41,000 at the time) for their failure to take down online content banned by Russian authorities - the latest in a string of fines dating back several years.
Last week, Russian lawmakers submitted a draft bill which would force tech giants to open offices in Russia, or Russian companies would be banned from advertising with them.