Russia's "fining spree": Amazon fined over illegal content

Russia fined Amazon four million rubles ($64,601) for allegedly failing to remove harmful content related to suicide and drug use. Although it’s Amazon’s first fine from a Moscow court, Russia has recently been on a “fining spree,” issuing fines to almost every major Western tech company.

The Tagansky District Court fined Amazon for failing to delete photos illustrating suicide methods, as well as information on the production and sale of drugs. Russia’s communications watchdog Roskomnadzor claims to have requested the removal of this information 19 or 21 times, according to various sources, before the official filings in court.

Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Roskomnadzor has tightened its grip – both to restrict political narratives within the country and to reduce the influence of foreign tech giants, according to pundits.

Previously, a Moscow court fined TikTok three million rubles ($48,528) for allegedly spreading LGBT propaganda amongst underage users, according to the state news agency TASS. The ruling was based on the protocol of Roskomnadzor, which concerns the "propaganda of the LGBT movement, radical feminism, and a distorted view of traditional sexual relations.”

Additionally, a live broadcast platform Twitch was fined for refusing to delete video interviews with Ukraine’s presidential adviser Oleksiy Arestovych. According to the Russian state-owned news agency RIA Novosti, the protocol concerned the spreading of “fakes about a special operation carried out by the Russian army in Ukraine.”

Google and its owned Youtube also didn’t escape the hammer of Roskomnadzor. The company has already been fined multiple times, with the most recent fine concerning “fakes about the course of a special military operation in Ukraine; discrediting the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation; spreading materials promoting extremism and terrorism; spreading materials promoting an indifferent attitude to the life and health of minors; spreading information which encourages people, including to minors, to participate in unauthorized mass actions.” According to Roskomnadzor, Google’s fines for similar violations exceed 7,2 billion rubles ($116 million).

Telegram, Zoom, Discord and Pinterest. also received their share of fines for failing to remove what the watchdog deems "illegal content." Russia has previously reminded companies about a law passed in early March that prohibits "discrediting" its armed forces, with a maximum penalty of 15 years.

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