Google must pay millions if Russian YouTube channel not restored
Google is faced with having to pay a whopping 1 billion rubles ($13.54 million) in mid-March 2022 if it fails to comply with the Moscow Arbitration Court’s decision ordering it to unblock a Russian TV channel’s YouTube account.
The US tech giant had no right to restrict the YouTube page of the Tsargrad TV channel, Russia’s Ninth Arbitration Court of Appeal ruled on Thursday, supporting a previous court decision. Google was ordered to restore the channel as well as its monetization rights, imposing what Russian media described as an “unprecedented” forfeit penalty if it failed to comply.
Google will have to pay 100,000 rubles ($1,358) for each day it fails to comply with the court’s decision after it comes into force. The penalty will also increase “in a progressive manner” for each week that Google delays in adhering to the ruling.
The exact mechanism of the increase was not revealed by Russian media following the decision, but previous rulings upheld by the Arbitration Court show that the daily penalty doubles each week. Under the ruling, the total fine cannot exceed the threshold of 1 billion rubles for the first nine months after it comes into force.
The penalty would reach that threshold by mid-March 2022, said Valery Rukobratsky, a spokesman for Tsargrad founder Konstantin Malofeev. The threshold would be lifted in September 2022, and the penalty would increase without any limits from then, he added.
Google has so far not commented on the court’s decision. The US tech giant’s terms of service normally require all lawsuits against the company to be handled by the US or British courts. Russia’s courts, however, ruled that they have the power to handle the suit.
YouTube blocked the account of Tsargrad TV on July 28, 2020, according to the channel, without any prior warning. Tsargrad accused Google of breaching its own terms of service. Google later explained its decision by pointing to the fact that Malofeev was put on the US sanctions list over Russia’s alleged role in the conflict in eastern Ukraine.