Facebook could face heavy fine in Russia for banned content, regulator says

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MOSCOW, September 30 (Reuters) – Russian authorities on Thursday warned social media giant Facebook (FB.O) that it faces a fine of up to 10% of its annual turnover in the country, unless it does not remove content that Moscow deems illegal.

Raising the bar in its stalemate with US Big Tech, state communications regulator Roskomnadzor told Reuters he planned to send Facebook officials in Russia an official notification that he had failed to repeatedly to delete prohibited information.

This, he said, could result in a fine of 5% or 10% of Facebook’s annual turnover in Russia if the situation is not corrected.

Facebook’s violations include failing to remove posts containing child pornography, drug addiction and extremist content, the Vedomosti daily reported separately.

Facebook did not immediately comment.

Moscow has increased the pressure on foreign tech companies over the past year as part of a long-standing campaign to assert greater sovereignty over its segment of the Internet, including working to ensure that companies store personal data of Russians on its territory.

Russia on Wednesday threatened to block YouTube, owned by Alphabet Inc. (GOOGL.O), after the video hosting giant removed German-language channels from Russian public broadcaster RT from its site. Read more

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

Vedomosti cited experts who estimated Facebook’s annual turnover in Russia at around 12 billion rubles ($ 165 million).

Reuters could not immediately verify this estimate.

Roskomnadzor opened 17 different administrative cases against Facebook this year for failing to remove banned content, according to court documents, with 64 million rubles owed in fines or pending.

A fine for turnover would eclipse those imposed so far.

“The Facebook administration did not pay the fines,” Vedomosti said, citing Roskomnadzor.

($ 1 = 72.5975 rubles)

Editing by Barbara Lewis, Elaine Hardcastle, Kirsten Donovan

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.


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