WhatsApp Faces Penalty in Russia on Accusations of Failing to Delete Banned Content: Report

Messenger service WhatsApp faces a maximum fine of RUB 4 million (nearly Rs. 41 lakh) after Russia accused it of failing to delete banned content, state-owned news agency RIA reported on Friday, citing a Moscow court.

Although WhatsApp’s parent company Meta Platforms was last year banned in Russia as an “extremist” organisation, the messenger app — which is widely popular in Russia — has not previously been threatened with legal proceedings for failing to remove prohibited information.

The RIA report did not specify what information WhatsApp had allegedly failed to delete. It said the administrative case was filed by communications regulator Roskomnadzor.

At the outset of its military campaign in Ukraine, Russia introduced harsh new military censorship laws under which technology companies including Google, Wikipedia and others have been fined.

Earlier this month, a Russian court fined Alphabet’s Google RUB 3 million (nearly Rs. 31 lakh) for failing to delete YouTube videos it said promoted “LGBT propaganda” and “false information” about Russia’s military campaign in Ukraine. 

In April, Russia acted against the Wikimedia Foundation, owner of the online encyclopedia Wikipedia, for failing to delete content considered extremist as Moscow pursues a drive to crack down on independent sources of information.

The foundation’s Russia chapter has previously said it believes other fines may be overturned, but that the number of cases against it may increase, given the number of articles on Wikipedia about the conflict.

Last year in July, a Moscow court imposed a RUB 18 million (roughly Rs. 2,40,00,00) fine on chat service WhatsApp and a RUB 1 million penalty on disappearing message platform Snapchat. The fines followed a complaint by Russia’s state communications regulator, Roskomnadzor.

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