MOSCOW (Reuters) -Google faces a fine after Russia’s antitrust watchdog said the U.S. tech firm had breached rules related to suspending and blocking accounts on its YouTube video service.
Russia’s Federal Antimonopoly Service (FAS) said on Thursday the fine would be determined during an administrative investigation, adding Google’s conduct had infringed users’ interests and restricted competition.
“Google is waiting for the full text of the decision in order to examine it,” the company, a unit of Alphabet, said.
Russia has handed Google several small fines in the last year for failing to delete content Moscow deems illegal, part of a wider campaign critics characterise as an attempt by the Russian authorities to exert tighter control over the internet.
It upped the ante in December by imposing a 7.2 billion roubles ($97 million) penalty for what it said was a persistent failure to remove banned items. Google has appealed that ruling.
“(The FAS) found that the rules related to creating, suspending and blocking accounts and handling of user content on YouTube were non-transparent, biased and unpredictable,” the FAS said in a statement.
YouTube was also the subject of a protracted dispute with Tsargrad TV, a Christian Orthodox channel, which Google blocked as the account was owned by a Russian businessman targeted by U.S. sanctions.
Konstantin Malofeev claimed victory in that case in December, saying Google faced a potentially heavy fine.
YouTube also drew Moscow’s ire for taking down a live stream of Russian broadcaster RT DE last year, part of a wider spat that saw Russia shut down German broadcaster Deutsche Welle’s operations in Moscow earlier this month and strip its staff of their accreditation.
($1 = 74.5525 roubles)
(Reporting by Alexander Marrow Additional reporting by Anton KolodyazhnyyEditing by Jason Neely and Mark Potter)