Russian fines totaling $375K were levied against Facebook and Telegram for failing to remove banned content.

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Russian fines totaling $375K were levied against Facebook and Telegram for failing to remove banned content.

Following the networks’ failure to remove materials forbidden by Russia, a Moscow court fined Facebook and messaging app Telegram a total of $375,000 on Thursday.

It was unclear what prohibited content the companies were required to remove, but the move could foreshadow a greater push in the country to restrict political dissent on social media.

The $236,000 charge imposed by Facebook and the $139,000 charge imposed by Telegram are the second set of costs both platforms have been compelled to pay in recent weeks. Facebook was fined $362,000 for failing to remove content deemed illegal by Russian authorities, while Telegram was fined $69,000 for failing to remove protest calls.

Earlier in 2020, Russia’s official communications watchdog Roskomnadzor threatened to ban Twitter if it didn’t remove content that authorities deemed illegal. Officials said the materials included information on narcotics and child pornography, as well as promoting children’s suicide.

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The crackdown began after Russian officials chastised social media sites for being used to mobilize tens of thousands of people on Russia’s streets this year to seek the release of jailed Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, Putin’s most well-known adversary. The surge of protests has posed a significant challenge to the Kremlin.

Social media networks, according to officials, failed to delete appeals for youngsters to join the protests. Putin has encouraged law enforcement to step up their efforts to monitor social media platforms and track down those who recruit children to participate in “illegal and unsanctioned street actions.”

The Russian government has been working to tighten control over the internet and social media since 2012, when a law was passed authorizing authorities to blacklist and restrict specific online content. Since then, Russia has imposed a rising number of limitations on messaging applications, websites, and social media platforms.

The government has threatened to restrict Facebook and Twitter on multiple occasions, but has backed away from full bans, presumably due to public outrage. Only social network LinkedIn, which wasn’t very popular in Russia, has been banned by authorities for its failure to store user data in that country.

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