On the eve of the election, Russia intensifies its pressure on foreign technology companies.

On the eve of parliamentary elections, Russia threatened US social media companies with large fines if they failed to remove content that it deemed illegal. It also demanded that Apple and Google refrain from interfering in its internal affairs.

Internet services are coming under increasing pressure in the run-up to Russia’s parliamentary elections, which will take place from September 17-19. According to Russian authorities, foreign companies are obstructing their efforts to shut down virtual private networks (VPNs) and online resources linked to imprisoned Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny by blocking their access.

Now, after Vadim Subbotin, deputy head of state communications regulator Roskomnadzor, hinted that large fines were possible, a long-running dispute over prohibited content appears to be ratcheting up a notch.

The Russian news agency Interfax reported that Subbotin said, “We will now consider applying turnover fines to companies that systematically violate Roskomnadzor’s demands.”

Russia has already imposed a number of small fines on foreign technology companies; however, the imposition of penalties based on the turnover of these companies suggests that much larger sums may be levied in the future.

According to Subbotin, companies such as Facebook, Twitter, and Alphabet’s Google are among those that are at risk.

He claimed that Roskomnadzor now has “substantial” tools for enforcing Russian law, but he did not provide any additional details.

Slowing down Twitter

Following successful attempts to slow Twitter’s speed and impede the operation of some VPN providers, Roskomnadzor last week blocked major domain name system (DNS) services for a period of several hours, according to the agency. Russian IT expert Mikhail Klimarev told Reuters that Russia is now “significantly ahead of China in terms of blocking capabilities.”

A lawmaker said earlier on Thursday that Russian prosecutors approached Apple CEO Tim Cook and Google CEO Sundar Pichai on Sept. 9 and told them to stop breaking Russian law by allowing people to access Navalny’s banned tactical voting app through their companies’ app stores.

In an interview with Interfax, Klimov stated that “(Apple and Google’s) actions during the Russian elections are seen as illegal and directly linked to interference in Russia’s purely domestic affairs.” Apple and Google did not respond to requests for comment within a short period of time.

It was earlier this week that Apple’s AppStore went down, and GlobalCheck, a Russian organisation that monitors website accessibility, reported late Wednesday that telecoms operators had begun blocking access to Google Docs.


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