Google Gets a Slap on the Wrist For Site-Blocking Failures
Under Russian law, search engine operators are required to censor their search results to ensure that permanently blocked sites do not appear in their indexes. After failing to comply by interfacing its systems with the national FGIS blacklist database, Google has now been fined 500,000 rubles (US$7,545), the lowest amount that can be levied under existing laws.
Last year, Russian introduced new legislation that can see search engines fined for offering links to VPNs and other anonymizers that have been banned in the country. Fines can also be issued to search engines that fail to connect to a resource offering up-to-date information on what domains should be rendered inaccessible.
This database (known as FGIS), should have been utilized by Google, but for reasons that remain unclear, the US-based search giant didn’t want to play ball.
Several weeks ago, local telecoms watchdog Roscomnadzor contacted Google with a demand that it should immediately connect to the FGIS blacklist. Google still did not comply, placing the company in breach of federal law.
That left Google exposed to a potential administrative fine of between 500,000 and 700,000 rubles (US$7,545 to US$10,563). A further demand insisted that it should connect to the FGIS database by today.
Despite a meeting between Deputy Head of Roscomnadzor Vadim Subbotin and Doron Avni, Google’s Director of Public Policy & Government Relations for Europe, Middle East & Africa Emerging Markets, which took place in Moscow last month, today’s deadline wasn’t met.
Roscomnadzor announced this morning that as a result of the continued breach, it had considered the merits of an administrative violation against Google. Since the company had not responded as required, despite having the rules “repeatedly explained”, a fine had been imposed.
“Failure to comply with these requirements constitutes an administrative offense (Part 1 of Article 13.40 of the Administrative Code of the Russian Federation). The sanction of this article provides for a legal fine in the amount of from 500 to 700 thousand rubles,” a Roscomnadzor statement reads.
While fines are never welcome, the watchdog fined Google just 500,000 rubles (US$7,545). This is the lowest amount that can be handed down under existing laws.
While the dispute was ongoing, Google said that it was in constant contact with Roscomnadzor and was ready for discussion and negotiation, including action to ensure it complies with Russian legal requirements moving forward. Why connecting to Russia’s FGIS database didn’t happen as required remains unclear.
Early November, major rightsholders and tech companies in Russia signed a memorandum of cooperation to deal with the issue of online piracy. Google was not a signatory although there are some suggestions that it could join at some point in the future.
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