Reddit faces its first “banned content” fine in Russia

Reddit, a popular social media network, joins a lengthy list of companies fined for not deleting content Moscow sees as discrediting the Russian army.

Reddit could be fined up to 4 million roubles ($43,895) for failing to remove “knowingly false information” about the Soviet Union’s actions during World War Two and content that discredits the Russian Federation’s armed forces, as well as other “extremist information.”

Numerous subreddits cover Russia’s war in Ukraine, with many poking holes in Russia’s narrative supporting the conflict. The Russian government still denies the conflict is a war and calls it a “special military operation,” even 17 months after the full-scale invasion of neighboring Ukraine.

Reddit joins a list of sites under scrutiny in Russia for failing to remove content that Moscow deems illegal. For example, Meta’s WhatsApp was fined over $37,000 for not deleting banned content. Google received a $387 million fine for failing to remove content showing the destruction in Ukraine from Youtube, while Amazon was handed a $64,601 fine for allegedly failing to remove harmful content.

Since Russia invaded Ukraine, Roskomnadzor has tightened its grip to restrict political narratives within the country and reduce the influence of foreign tech giants. The government’s primary focus is on media and bloggers’ coverage of the conflict, introducing tougher punishments for “discrediting” the actions of its armed forces or publishing false information about them.

Western-based social media apps were added to Russia’s infamous Register of Prohibited Sites, including Snapchat, Telegram, and WhatsApp. The blacklist applies to all Russian government-affiliated organizations and state agencies.

The attempted narrative control has led to a situation where teens posting anti-war content on social media face up to ten years in prison while rogue businessmen who attempt an armed coup, like Yevgeny Prigozhin, walk free.

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