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Russia vs BigTech corporations

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Moscow imposes fines on Amazon, Twitch and TikTok. The move is part of a broader campaign against foreign tech companies.

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Amazon faces fines of up to 12 million rubles in Russia for failing to remove content Moscow deems illegal. The Reuters news agency reported on Tuesday with reference to the Russian news agency TASS.

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TASS quoted a Moscow court as saying that two lawsuits had been filed against Amazon, both alleging “violation of the procedure for limiting access to information” under Russian legislation. Exactly what content is involved was not mentioned. According to the Reuters news agency, it would be the first such fine for Amazon in Russia.

A Moscow district court earlier fined the Amazon streaming service Twitch four million rubles ($68,000) for publishing a video interview with Oleksiy Arestovych, an adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, which Moscow said contained “false” information. Twitch had already been fined three million rubles (51,000 euros) for broadcasting an Arestovych interview earlier this year.

The same court also fined TikTok Tuesday for failing to remove content it said violated Russian laws on “LGBT propaganda.” TikTok, which belongs to the Chinese company ByteDance, was fined three million rubles (51,000 euros).

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Reuters reports that the case against TikTok was based on allegations that the company promotes “non-traditional values, LGBT, feminism and a distorted representation of traditional sexual values” on its platform. According to Reuters, Russia is considering expanding the 2013 law on “gay propaganda,” which would ban people or entities from promoting gay relationships to children.

The fines are the latest step in Moscow’s long-running dispute with foreign BigTechs over penalties for Moscow-viewed illegal content and data retention demands. At the end of July, the Russian cartel office imposed a fine of two billion rubles (around 34 million euros) on the US technology group Google. The authority accuses the US company of exploiting the monopoly position of its video platform YouTube. Shortly before, Google had already been fined millions because YouTube had not removed “anti-Russian” content.

YouTube is the last western platform not blocked in Russia after Moscow cracked down on Facebook and Twitter in March this year. From a Russian perspective, both social networks had failed to delete content that was seen as “misinformation” about the war in Ukraine. At the beginning of the war, Russia made it a punishable offense to spread false information about its own armed forces.

While Russian authorities have completely banned meta-services Facebook and Instagram and restricted most citizens’ access to Twitter, they only made it clear in mid-May that they do not want to block YouTube in the country. The reasons for this are not entirely clear.

The action against Google and other Western tech companies did not just begin with the Ukraine war, but is part of a broader campaign. At the end of November 2021, a Moscow court fined Google for failing to delete content it deemed illegal. Back in August, a Russian court fined Google for the same reason.

Since the beginning of 2021, Russian courts have repeatedly fined tech giants such as Facebook, Google, Twitter and TikTok if they do not block or remove content on their platforms that is classified as illegal in Russia, including calls for prohibited demonstrations, or the data of Russian users and users do not store on servers in Russia.


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