- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 22, 2017

Google was briefly banned by Moscow’s internet watchdog Thursday over a website at the center of a June 2016 federal tax ruling, Russian media reported.

The web address for Google’s Russian language portal, Google.ru, appeared for about three hours Thursday afternoon on a blacklist maintained by Roskomnadzor, Russia’s federal internet and media regulator, in connection with a ruling made last year against a illegal online betting service, The Moscow Times reported.

“Google was redirecting to a bookmaker, which was on the tax service register of restricted websites,” Roskomnadzor chief Aleksandr Zharov told the Interfax news agency, as translated by state-owned media.

“Google Russia has fulfilled all the requirements, deleted everything and, respectively, has been removed from the single registry,” he reportedly told Interfax.

Several major internet service providers had already begun blocking access to Google.ru before the regulator removed it from its blacklist later Thursday afternoon, The Times reported. A representative for one of the telecoms, TTC, said its filtration system had been operating in “automatic mode,” effectively restricting access to any websites added to Roskomnadzor’s blacklist, RBC reported.

Roskomnadzor has ordered internet service providers to block access to over 6,000 gambling websites and “online casinos” since Russia’s Federal Tax Service (FTS) outlawed unlicensed gambling websites in 2015, reported Vedomosti, a privately-owned business newspaper.

The head of the committee on information policy, information technologies and communications in Russia’s State Duma, Leonid Levin, told journalists Thursday that Roskomnadzor initial order demonstrated “that there are no untouchables in the Russian legal field and even major internet-players must not abuse their positions by interacting with websites engaged in illegal activities,” The Kyiv Post reported.

Thursday’s incident is hardly the only as of late involving the Russian government and Google. Russia’s antitrust regulators ordered Google to pay over $6.8 million in fees last year after finding the company in violation of a federal “Protection of Competition” law. More recently, Russian President Vladimir Putin has touted a so-called “Google Tax” that would impose heavy excises on foreign tech firms.

• Andrew Blake can be reached at ablake@washingtontimes.com.

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