Russia fines Google over €45 million for refusing to remove LGBTQ+ content

Google is facing yet another fine after a court in Russia prosecuted the tech giant for failing to remove LGBTQ+ content from YouTube.

Google fine $50 million for failing to remove LGBTQ+ content from YouTube by Russia court.
Image: Shutterstock

A court in Russia has issued a fine to Google in the amount of 4.6 billion rubles (€45.7 million) for refusing to remove LGBTQ+ content from YouTube sites throughout the country. Google’s refusal goes against the Russian government’s demands that the technology giant remove “disinformation” surrounding the country’s ongoing war with Ukraine, as well as demands that Google remove LGBTQ+ content in accordance with a Russian ban on so-called “LGBT propaganda.”

The decision comes from Moscow’s Tagansky Court, which ruled against Google on Wednesday, December 20. According to a report from Forbes, the court claimed that YouTube repeatedly refused to remove LGBTQ+ content from their site. The court similarly stated that YouTube had failed to remove allegedly “fake” content about the country’s “special military operations,” referencing Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which began in February of 2022. 

A Russian state-owned news agency, RIA Novosti, reported that prosecutors claimed that YouTube videos containing LGBTQ+ content sought to convince “minors to commit illegal acts.” 

While it remains unclear exactly what these ‘illegal acts’ were, similar language has been weaponised against the transgender community, claiming that the visibility of trans individuals and lifestyles will somehow result in more minors identifying as trans. 

The €47.5 million fine levied against Google is the steepest fine that has been doled out by the Russian government to date when it comes to violations of its “LGBT propaganda” laws. 

Moreover, with a ruling delivered last month, the Russian Supreme Court labelled the “global LGBTQ+ movement” as an “extremist” organisation. Following the decision, Russian law enforcement began cracking down on LGBTQ+ venues and advocacy agencies throughout the country. Under the new policy, those found participating in or financing any LGBTQ+ events, venues, or organisations, can be persecuted, facing a maximum of 12 years in prison as a result. 

Anti-LGBTQ+ legislation has been in place in Russia since 2013, when President Vladimir Putin signed a law prohibiting the dissemination of “propaganda” related to “nontraditional sexual relations” among minors. This included prohibiting any kind of positive representation of LGBTQ+ individuals and lifestyles. In 2022, the prohibition was expanded to apply to all citizens, including adults. 

The effective outlawing of any kind of positive LGBTQ+ content on television, online, or in other forms of media resulted in Google facing a €35,000 fine earlier this year for violating the ban. 

These are just the latest in a long run of fines that Google has faced at the hands of the Russian courts, including a €72.5 million fine in 2021 for hosting information about the Russian military, as well as a €216.8 million fine in 2022. According to the Wall Street Journal, Google pulled all of its employees out of the country in response to the ongoing fines. 

Despite the continued fines levied at Google and its subsidiary YouTube, neither the search engine nor the video streaming platform have been banned in Russia. Meanwhile, platforms like Facebook, Twitter/X, and Instagram have been formally blocked by the Russian government. 

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