A Russian court found Google guilty of « recidivism » because the American company had not removed content deemed illegal from its platforms. As a result, the web giant was fined a record 7.2 billion rubles (87 million euros at the current rate).
Russia is not at its first attempt. The country regularly sanctions large digital companies, accused of not erasing content promoting drugs, suicide and linked to the opposition. In September, just before the general elections, Moscow forced Apple and Google, accused of « electoral interference », to withdraw the app of the jailed opponent Alexei Navalny from their virtual stores in Russia. Authorities threatened to arrest employees of these companies in Russia if they did not cooperate, according to sources inside the groups.
A sovereign Internet under development
Russia has also blocked several sites linked to Alexeï Navalny, whose organizations have been recognized as « extremists » by the Russian courts. In September, Russian telecoms gendarme Roskomnadzor also announced that he had blocked six widely used virtual private network (VPN) software allowing access to the growing number of banned websites in Russia.
The authorities are also developing a controversial “sovereign Internet” system that will eventually allow the Russian Internet to be isolated by separating it from the major global servers. The Kremlin denies wanting to build a national network under control, as is the case in China, but this is what NGOs and opponents fear.
Russian power is finally strengthening its grip on the champions of Russian digital technology. Passed under the control of a subsidiary of the gas giant Gazprom, the Russian tech group VK, parent company of the first Russian social network « VKontakte », announced in mid-December the appointment as CEO of Vladimir Kirienko, son of a close associate of President Vladimir Putin.