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Russia ramps up pressure on foreign tech firms on eve of election By Reuters


© Reuters. FILE PHOTO. This picture illustrates the logo of Roskomnadzor (Russia’s state communication regulator) reflected on a laptop screen. It was taken 02/12/2019. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov/File Photo

By Alexander Marrow

MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russia on Thursday threatened U.S. social media firms with sizeable fines if they fail to delete content Moscow deems illegal and demanded Apple (NASDAQ:) and Google stop allegedly meddling in its internal affairs on the eve of parliamentary elections.

Russia’s September 17-19 parliamentary election will put increasing pressure on internet services. Russia’s authorities claimed foreign companies were hindering their efforts in blocking virtual private network (VPN) and online resources related to Alexei Navalny who is currently behind bars.

A long-running conflict over banned content appears to be moving up after VadimSubbotin, the deputy head of Roskomnadzor’s state communications regulator, indicated that large fines could be possible.

Subbotin said that the Interfax news agency quoted Subbotin saying, “We will now contemplate applying turnover fines to companies which systematically violate Roskomnadzor’s requirements.”

Russia has already placed small amounts of fines on several foreign tech companies. However, penalties that are based upon turnover could lead to much greater sums.

Subbotin listed Facebook, Twitter and Alphabet as potential targets.

Roskomnadzor is now equipped with “substantial” tools that can enforce Russian laws, he stated, but did not provide further details.

Roskomnadzor slowed Twitter’s pace since March. They also blocked some VPN service providers and, last week, prevented major domain names system (DNS), services from being operated for several hours.

Mikhail Klimarev, an IT expert said that Russia now has more blocking capability than China.

Andrei Klimov, a lawmaker from Russia, stated that Russian prosecutors made an official approach to Apple CEO Tim Cook on September 9 and Google CEO Sundar Pichai to tell them not to break Russian law by continuing to permit people access to Navalny’s tactical voting app in their stores.

Interfax quotes Klimov as saying, “(Apple) and Google’s] actions during Russian election are seen as illegal. They directly link to interference in Russia’s purely internal affairs.”

Apple and Google didn’t immediately reply to inquiries for comment.

Apple’s AppStore went down earlier in the week. GlobalCheck-a Russian monitoring group for websites accessibility, said late on Wednesday that telecoms operators were blocking Google Docs access.

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