- The Washington Times - Friday, September 13, 2019

Google has paid a small penalty for failing to block access to certain websites banned in Russia, Moscow’s federal censor said Friday.

Roscomnadzor, the Russian government’s internet and media regulator, said that Google paid a fine of 700,000 rubles – or about $10,900 – related to the company’s refusal to fully comply with rules imposed under the country’s strict censorship regime.

Search engines are prohibited under Russian law from displaying banned websites in the results shown to users, and companies like Google are asked to adhere to a regularly updated blacklist maintained by Roscomnadzor.

Google does not fully comply with the blacklist, however, and more than a third of the websites banned in Russia could be found using its search engine, Roscomnadzor said previously.

Spokespeople for Google did not immediately return a request for comment.

Roscomnadzor announced the fine against Google in July, and the head of the agency recently said that the company had yet to pay the penalty ahead of a deadline later this month.

Google was previously fined last year by Roscomnadzor for linking search users to websites outlawed in Russia, and a top official at the agency subsequently raised the possibility of banning the internet giant itself unless the company changed course.

“In case fines fail to make a foreign company change its ways, there is a chance that the legislation will be changed, which will make it possible to block access to Google in Russia,” Vadim Subbotin, Roskomnadzor’s deputy director, said last December, Russian media reported.

Russian internet laws prohibit websites that promote violent extremism and child pornography, as well as homosexuality, drugs, suicide, online gambling, “fake news,” and information considered disrespectful to the “society, government, official government symbols, constitution or governmental bodies of Russia.”

Google has been asked by Russian authorities to remove 161,604 websites from its services, including its namesake search engine, since the law requiring their exclusion from search results took effect in November 2017, according to the company’s most recent transparency report.

As of June 2018, Google agreed to remove content at the request of Russian authorities 79% of the time, the report said.

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