Facebook, Twitter, Telegram facing $1M in fines from Russian authorities

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Sept. 4 (UPI) — Western social media giants Telegram, Facebook and Twitter will be called into a Moscow court this month where they will face fines of nearly $1 million for refusing to remove “prohibited content,” Russian media reported Saturday.

The companies will face a total of nine administrative offenses during a hearing to held in the Tagansky district of Moscow on Sept. 14, the government news agency Tass reported.

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Under the charges, Facebook is facing five charges and is looking at a possible fine of around $550,000 while Twitter and Telegram face two charges each with possible fines totaling more than $400,000.

The report didn’t detail which content the authorities considered offensive, but the latest charges continue a recent pattern of Russian censors clamping down on Western social media giants in the run-up to legislative elections that begin Sept. 17.

Facebook has already been fined nearly $675,000 so far this year by Roskomnadzor, Russia’s internet watchdog, including $200,000 last month for allegedly failing to maintain servers in the country where the data concerning Russian nationals is stored.

Twitter was fined $233,000 for “repeated violations” of the localization requirement while Facebook-owned WhatsApp was fined $55,000 under last week’s sanctions.

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Meanwhile, Roskomnadzor on Thursday told Apple and Google they must remove a “Smart Voting” app developed by opponents of President Vladimir Putin which encourages voters to cast ballots against his United Russia party.

The censor cited the app developers’ ties to jailed anti-corruption activist Alexei Navalny, whose supporters have been designated as an extremist organization, the Interfax news agency reported.

Navalny’s backers said in July that Roskomnadzor had blocked nearly 50 websites associated with the opposition leader for allegedly disseminating “propaganda and the continuation of prohibited extremist activities.”