MOSCOW, Sept 16 (Reuters) - Russia on Thursday threatened
U.S. social media firms with sizeable fines if they fail to
delete content Moscow deems illegal and demanded Apple and
Google stop allegedly meddling in its internal affairs on the
eve of parliamentary elections.
Internet services are coming under increasing pressure ahead
of Russia's Sept. 17-19 parliamentary vote. Russia's authorities
have said foreign firms are hampering their efforts to block
virtual private networks (VPNs) and online resources linked to
jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny.
Now, a long-running dispute over banned content looks set to
move up a gear after Vadim Subbotin, deputy head of state
communications regulator Roskomnadzor, signalled sizeable fines
"We will now consider applying turnover fines on those
companies that systematically violate Roskomnadzor's demands,"
Interfax news agency cited Subbotin as saying.
While Russia has already levied several small fines on
foreign tech companies, imposing penalties based on their
turnover suggests potentially much bigger sums.
Subbotin named Facebook, Twitter and
Alphabet's Google as some of the firms at risk.
Roskomnadzor now has "substantial" tools capable of
enforcing the requirements of Russian law, he said, without
giving further details.
Roskomnadzor has successfully slowed the speed of Twitter
since March, impeded some VPN providers from operating, and last
week blocked major domain name system (DNS) services for several
"Now, Russia is way ahead of China in terms of blocking
capabilities," IT expert Mikhail Klimarev told Reuters.
Earlier on Thursday, lawmaker Andrei Klimov said Russian
prosecutors had made official approaches to Apple CEO
Tim Cook and Google CEO Sundar Pichai on Sept. 9, telling them
to stop breaking Russian law by continuing to allow people to
access Navalny's banned tactical voting app on their companies'
"(Apple and Google's) actions during Russian elections are
seen as illegal and directly linked to interference in Russia's
purely domestic affairs," Interfax cited Klimov as saying.
Apple and Google did not immediately respond to requests for
Apple's AppStore suffered an outage earlier this week and
GlobalCheck, a group that monitors websites' accessibility in
Russia, late on Wednesday said telecoms operators had started
blocking access to Google Docs.
(Additional reporting by Anton Zverev
Editing by Mark Potter)