Russia’s communications watchdog said on Wednesday it was taking steps to punish the Wikimedia Foundation, which hosts online encyclopedia Wikipedia, for violating Russian law around the conflict in Ukraine. In a statement, Roskomnadzor said that Wikipedia still hosted “prohibited materials, including fakes about the course of the special military operation on the territory of Ukraine”, and that search engines would be used to inform users that Wikimedia violated Russian law. Roskomnadzor said the measures would remain in place until Wikimedia Foundation becomes fully compliant with Russian law.
Russia introduced sweeping new laws on sharing information about the conflict in Ukraine shortly after the Kremlin ordered tens of thousands of troops to deploy to the country on February 24.
The announcement comes days after Russia fined Google. On Monday, a Moscow court has fined Google RUB 21 billion (nearly Rs. 2,900 crore) for failing to remove content concerning Russia’s military intervention in Ukraine, the nation’s telecommunications regulator said.
Roskomnadzor said the Google-owned video platform YouTube had failed to block “false information” on the offencive in Ukraine, “extremist and terrorist propaganda” and content “calling on minors to participate in unauthorised demonstrations.”
The regulator said that as this was a repeat conviction for Google, the fine was based on its annual revenue in Russia.
Russian authorities have been dialling up their pressure on Western social media firms in recent years with repeated fines and threats in a bid to remove criticism from the internet, one of the last bastions of free speech in Russia.
Like most of its Western rivals, Google recently quit the Russian market to denounce Russia’s military intervention in Ukraine.
According to Vladimir Zykov, an expert cited by Russian news agency Ria-Novosti, the fine is the largest ever imposed on a Western tech firm by a Russian court.
Russian authorities can impose on Google “as many fines as they wish, they won’t receive the money” as the firm has pulled out of the country, he added.