Moscow ruling is first revenue-based fine of its kind in Russia and comes amid fears of internet crackdown

Moscow has increased pressure on big tech this year
Photograph: Alastair Pike/AFP/Getty

A Moscow court has said it is fining Alphabet’s Google 7.2bn roubles (£73m) for what it says is a repeated failure to delete content Russia deems illegal, the first revenue-based fine of its kind in Russia.

Moscow has increased pressure on big tech this year in a campaign that critics characterise as an attempt by Russian authorities to exert tighter control over the internet, something they say threatens individual and corporate freedom.

Google said in an email it would study the court ruling before deciding on further steps.

Russia has imposed small fines on foreign technology companies throughout this year, but the penalty on Friday marks the first time it has exacted a percentage of a company’s annual Russian turnover, greatly increasing the sum of the fine. It did not specify the percentage, although Reuters calculations show it equates to just over 8%.

Russia has ordered companies to delete posts promoting drug abuse and dangerous pastimes and information about homemade weapons and explosives, as well as ones by groups it designates as extremist or terrorist.

Google, which has paid more than 32m roubles in fines over content violations this year, is at odds with Moscow on a number of issues.

Russia has demanded it restore access to the state-backed broadcaster RT’s German-language channels.

Last week, a Russian businessman who is under sanctions claimed victory over Google in a court case that could result in the tech company being hit with another heavy fine.

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