Russia’s internet watchdog, Roskomnadzor briefly blocked Google‘s Russian domain “Google.ru” on Thursday (June 22, 2017) over tax controversy.
Internet censorship and regulations in Russia are not to be taken lightly regardless to how globally recognised a corporation is. This has been made very loud and clear when Russia’s notorious internet regulator, Roskomnadzor listed Google’s domain for Russia among its registry of banned websites for containing illicit content according to the Russian government’s law. Other internet service providers in Russia, blocked any access to the giant US search engine for providing its users with links to a Russian bookmaker who is in tax dispute with the Russian government which resulted in blocking his website by the Federal Tax Service.“Google was redirecting to a bookmaker, which was on the tax service register of restricted websites,” Aleksandr Zharov, chief of Roskomnadzor.
Google.ru (Google’s domain in Russia) was taken down for about 3 hours automatically by the filtration system to restrict any access to the bookmaker’s website until the referral link was removed, and then it was back on.
“Google Russia has fulfilled all the requirements, deleted everything and, respectively, has been removed from the single registry,” Aleksandr Zharov, said.
Business newspaper, Vedomosti reported that ever since Russia’s Federal Tax Service (FTS) banned gambling websites without a licence in 2015, over 6000 online gambling websites and casinos have been restricted by Russian internet service providers upon orders from Roskomnadzor.
Leonid Levin, head of the information policies, communications and technologies committee at the Duma, stated that “The fuss around this issue once again shows how sensitive this issue is for citizens and media. This should serve as a warning for web companies that will make them choose their partners with greater responsibility”. He also marked that this move indicates that “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”.
This is not the first clamp down on Google by the Russian government. Last year, Google was forced by the Russian government to pay $6.8 million in cash for violating Russia’s federal “Protection of Competition” law when it collaborated with competitive companies to pre-install their apps on phones running on Android. As a result, Russia’s search engine “Yandex” filed a complaint against Google for that matter for giving Google “unfair advantage”. In addition, President Vladimir Putin suggested imposing taxes on foreign tech corps called “Google tax“.