Moscow, December 11: Russia on Tuesday fined US internet giant Google for failing to ban sites ruled to be extremist from appearing in search results. Critics have accused Russian authorities of using such bans to silence opponents.
Russia's communications watchdog announced that Google had been fined 500,000 rubles (USD 7,530) for failing to block blacklisted pages under a law that came into force in September. Google CEO Sundar Pichai Grilled by US Lawmakers on Data Breach, China Censorship Demands.
"The demands of the law were explained to Google representatives," Roskomnadzor said in a statement. Watchdog chief Alexander Zharov said Google had replied that "they consider they are observing Russian law," Interfax news agency reported. Zharov insisted that "filtering is not carried out" by Google, while Russia-based search engines -- Yandex, Sputnik and Mail.ru -- have complied. The fine was the minimum possible under the law.
Russia has put increasing pressure on popular websites and apps in what opposition figures see as an attempt to silence the main forum for political debate and organising protests.
In the summer of 2012, Russia created a blacklist of sites showing child pornography or drug use and deemed to be "extremist" -- a term vague enough to include opposition activism.
The professed intention of the move was to protect children from harmful content online. The law was pushed through despite opposition from major internet companies.
The communications watchdog does not publish the list of banned sites in full though a site's URL can entered to see if it is included. Google last year promised to do more to fight Moscow's "disinformation" after the Kremlin's alleged interference in US elections.
Russia in turn warned Google in September against "meddling" in its local elections by hosting opposition leader Alexei Navalny's videos calling for mass protests. Under pressure, Google later that month removed the videos from its YouTube video platform.
Putin in 2014 called the internet a "CIA project" and warned Russians against using it because, he said, all information "goes through servers that are in the (United) States, everything is monitored there".