On November 26, Russian federal media censor, Roskomnadzor, issued a financial penalty against Google for failure to remove banned websites from its search engine.
The sum of the penalty ($10,450) should be of little financial consequence to the tech multinational, but this governmental hostility is likely to unsettle those concerned about the Russian states increasingly draconian attitude towards internet freedom. This is the result of new legislation, passed last year, demanding that all search engines must exclude certain banned websites from their results.
Enforcing national regulations upon foreign companies like Google has proven a difficult task for the Russian authorities, but remains an ambition that shows little sign of receding. According to Google’s Transparency Report, Russian government requests to remove content have consistently increased in number, from 114 in December 2012 to 14,133 in June 2017. Kremlin officials have also repeatedly gone after tech firms and apps in the past, including Instagram, LinkedIn, and Telegram. Social media platforms often function as a source of alternative information outside of state-controlled media in Russia, and as a means to organize oppositional protests.
Roskomnadzor, the full name of which is Federal Service for Supervision of Communications, Information Technology and Mass Media, said in a statement: “Google search engine has not complied with Russian law and will be fined,” going on to demand that, “the search engine must begin filtering search results.”
This new action against Google emerges following the similar demand made last November to VPN services that protect its users information: either block a registry of blacklisted websites deemed “extremist” and work closely with the state watchdog, or else. Any VPN service that failed to comply with this demand was deemed punishable by the subsequent banning of that VPN.
Yet, despite these threats and efforts, VPN usage continues to be a very popular solution to an increasingly internet-filtered state. You can learn which VPNs continue to reliably provide unrestricted internet access across the nation via our guide to the Best VPN for Russia.