Facebook, Telegram Issued Combined $375K in Russian Fines for Not Removing Banned Content

A Moscow court fined Facebook and messaging app Telegram a total of $375,000 Thursday after the platforms did not remove content banned by Russia.

It was not immediately apparent what banned content the companies were supposed to take down, but the decision may signal a heightened push in the country to control political opposition on social media.

Facebook's $236,000 fine and Telegram's $139,000 fine are the second set of fees both platforms have been ordered to pay in the course of a few weeks. Facebook had been fined $362,000 for failure to take down content presumed unlawful by Russian authorities, while Telegram was ordered to pay $69,000 after not taking down calls for protests.

Russia's state communications watchdog Roskomnadzor also targeted Twitter earlier in 2020, threatening to ban the platform after it didn't remove content authorities called unlawful. The content, officials said, included information on drugs and child pornography and also promoted children's suicide.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below:

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Facebook was recently fined $236,000 in Russia because of banned content. Matt Rourke/AP Photo

The crackdown unfolded after Russian authorities criticized social media platforms that have been used to bring tens of thousands of people into the streets across Russia this year to demand the release of jailed Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, President Vladimir Putin's most well-known critic. The wave of demonstrations has been a major challenge to the Kremlin.

Officials alleged that social media platforms failed to remove calls for children to join the protests. Putin has urged police to act more to monitor social media platforms and to track down those who draw children into "illegal and unsanctioned street actions."

The Russian government's efforts to tighten control of the internet and social media date back to 2012, when a law allowing authorities to blacklist and block certain online content was adopted. Since then, a growing number of restrictions targeting messaging apps, websites and social media platforms have been introduced in Russia.

The government has repeatedly aired threats to block Facebook and Twitter but stopped short of outright bans—probably fearing the move would elicit too much 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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Messaging app Telegram has been ordered to pay a fine of $139,000 in Russia. Edward Smith/Getty Images