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Moscow Court Fines Facebook, Telegram For Not Deleting 'Banned' Content

A woman uses her smartphone while walking in central Moscow. Several social media giants have been embroiled in a broad dispute with Russian authorities in recent months for not deleting material on their websites that has been banned in Russia. (file photo)

A court in Moscow has fined social media outlets Facebook and Telegram for their "failure" to remove content "banned" by Russian authorities.

The Magistrates Court in the Taganka district on June 10 fined the U.S.-based social network giant Facebook 17 million rubles ($235,300) and Telegram 10 million rubles ($138,400) for what it called "administrative offenses."

Moscow claims it is trying to rein in Western tech giants and bolster what it calls its Internet "sovereignty," though many critics say authorities are trying to quell dissent with parliamentary elections looming in September and the ruling United Party's popularity slumping.

Several social media giants have been embroiled in a broad dispute with authorities who say posts on their sites, among other things, encouraged minors to join unsanctioned protests in January, when people across the country took to the streets to support opposition politician and Kremlin critic Aleksei Navalny after he was detained on what he calls trumped up charges.

Russia's communications watchdog on May 24 threatened that it could eventually slow down Google's Internet traffic in the country if it fails to delete content that is prohibited by Russian authorities.

Russia has already imposed a punitive slowdown on the U.S. social network Twitter for refusing to delete content banned by the Russian government.

Last month, the same court fined Facebook 26 million rubles ($359,000) and the U.S. technology giant Google $82,000 on the same charge.

In April, a court issued three separate fines against Twitter totaling about $120,000 over accusations it had failed to delete banned content.

Social media site TikTok was also fined on similar charges earlier this year.

Based on reporting by TASS and Interfax