Technology

Russia to seek hefty Facebook fine even after content was deleted

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A 3D-printed Facebook logo is seen placed on a keyboard in this illustration taken March 25, 2020. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration

  • Facebook has deleted some banned content, Russia says
  • Regulator to ask court for 5-10% turnover fine anyway
  • Fine would be escalation of internet crackdown
  • Russia says Facebook has repeatedly violated rules

MOSCOW, Oct 5 (Reuters) - Russia said on Tuesday that Facebook (FB.O) had complied with its demands to delete some banned content, but that Moscow would still seek to fine the social media group 5-10% of its annual turnover in Russia due to repeated legal violations.

Communications regulator Roskomnadzor said Facebook had only partially heeded its calls to take down banned content and had also been slow to do so. The regulator will still ask a court to impose the fine, it told Reuters.

Facebook did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Russia has ramped up pressure on foreign tech companies as it seeks to assert greater control over the internet in the country.

Legislation signed by President Vladimir Putin in December 2020 gave Russia the power to fine internet providers based on their turnover if they repeatedly fail to delete content when asked. This is the first time the law has been used for this offence.

Facebook and Instagram removed some content after Russia threatened to impose a fine based on Facebook's turnover, Roskomnadzor said, but they should have done so within 24 hours of being notified originally to avoid the penalty.

The regulator also said Facebook had not taken down all the content that Moscow wanted removed, with 1,043 items still on Facebook and 973 on Instagram.

A court will determine the size of the Facebook fine and a date for the hearing will be set in due course, Roskomnadzor said. read more

Experts cited by the Vedomosti newspaper estimate Facebook's annual Russian turnover at between 12 and 39 billion roubles ($165-$538 million). Reuters could not independently verify those figures.

Facebook's violations included failing to remove posts promoting drug abuse and dangerous pastimes, information about homemade weapons and explosives, as well as ones by extremist or terrorist organisations, Roskomnadzor said.

Earlier this year, the regulator told Facebook and other social media companies to remove posts containing what it said were calls for minors to participate in anti-government protests after the arrest of jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny.

The Russian authorities have since labelled Navalny's political movement as extremist.

Roskomnadzor has already filed 20 cases against Facebook this year and imposed smaller fines totalling around 70 million roubles.

"Facebook's administration has not paid the fines," Roskomnadzor said.

($1 = 72.5175 roubles)

Writing by Alexander Marrow; Editing by Tom Balmforth and Jane Merriman

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