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Google Files First Lawsuit Against Russia’s Internet Censor


Google has filed its first-ever lawsuit against Russia’s internet regulator over Russian demands to remove content from YouTube.

The U.S. technology giant is challenging demands brought by Russia’s federal communications agency Roskomnadzor to take down 12 videos it says call on minors to participate in unauthorized rallies.

Google has previously only acted as a defendant or third party in lawsuits brought against it by the Russian authorities, the business paper Kommersant reported. The company filed a lawsuit April 23 against Roskomnadzor in the Moscow Arbitration Court. The application was accepted by the court on May 11 and a first hearing scheduled for July 14.

The case relates to content deletion requests Roskomnadzor sent to Google in January, when the regulator embarked on a high-profile campaign against a host of social media giants over a surge in the number of posts in support of jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny following his return and detention in Russia.

Roskomnadzor requested both foreign and Russian technology companies, including Facebook, VKontakte, TikTok, YouTube and Twitter, delete tens of thousands of posts, videos and pictures it said was in violation of Russian laws. Content that Russia deems illegal ranges from posts promoting drug use or featuring child pornography to posts it says encourage under-18s to attend mass rallies.

It is one of many areas where Russia and Google have clashed in recent months.

Roskomnadzor on Tuesday said it had sent a letter to Google demanding that it unblock a YouTube video posted by the state-run Sputnik France outlet.

Google-owned YouTube has also come under fire for blocking the channel of pro-Kremlin, conservative Tsargrad TV, as well as removing state-run RT videos which Google said promoted coronavirus disinformation. Russia’s competition authorities are also investigating Google for alleged abuse of its market dominance, and have sought to oust foreign companies’ dominance of the Russian software market through laws requiring Russian-made apps, such as browsers and search engines, to be pre-installed on all smartphones sold in Russia.

The regulator is also forcibly slowing-down Twitter and previously said it was prepared to ban the social media platform if it did not comply with Russia’s requests to remove content. 

Russian lawmakers last week submitted a draft bill that would force large technology companies to open offices in Russia or ban Russian companies from advertising with them.

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