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Russia fines Telegram and Viber over war-related content

The companies behind the Telegram and Viber messaging apps were fined by a Moscow court on Tuesday for failing to delete what Russia deems illegal content, Interfax news agency said, including about the war in Ukraine.

Dubai-based Telegram was ordered to pay 4 million roubles ($47,525), Interfax said, and the Japanese company behind Viber was fined 1 million roubles.

Telegram, founded by Russian-born brothers Pavel and Nikolai Durov in 2013, is hugely popular in Russia where it is used on a daily basis by the Kremlin and defence ministry as well as by journalists, opposition figures, rights groups and millions of ordinary people.

TASS news agency said the fine against Telegram was for refusing to remove 32 channels publishing false information about what Russia calls its “special military operation” in Ukraine.

Russia has tightened controls over the coverage of the conflict by media and bloggers, introducing tougher punishments after its full-scale invasion of Ukraine last year for “discrediting” the actions of its armed forces or publishing false information about them.

It has frequently issued fines against a range of content providers including Google, Twitter, Meta’s Facebook and Instagram and this month, for the first time, WhatsApp.

TASS reported that the same Moscow court was looking into a case against Apple, also accused of failing to delete illegal content.

In a separate case, Wikimedia Foundation, the group behind Wikipedia, was fined 1.5 million roubles on Tuesday, Moscow’s Tagansky court said.

According to Interfax, the authorities wanted Wikipedia to remove a video on trainsurfing, a practice of catching free rides that is considered illegal and dangerous in many countries. Reuters

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