Apple fined by Russian court after failing to delete false information regarding Ukraine conflict

The offence stems from the fact that the US company did not remove apps and podcasts deemed to be spreading false information, amid Russia’s stringent content policy rules.

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On 3 August 2023, a Moscow court imposed a fine of 400,000 roubles (€3,848) on Apple for failing to delete ‘inaccurate’ information related to Russia’s ‘special military operation’ in Ukraine. The court determined that certain podcasts and apps, available on Russia’s App Store, contained content that Russia considered to be false but hadn’t been removed by Apple. Reports have stated that this offence was the first of its kind for the US-based tech giant.

According to Interfax, the court stated that the objectionable content contained information with the intention of engaging minors in unlawful actions to disrupt political stability in the country. The Moscow-based news agency also reported that the session was held behind closed doors and without media presence to prevent the disclosure of trade secrets.

This comes months after Apple paid a fine of 906 million roubles for breaching Russia’s antitrust rules regarding their supposed monopoly in the mobile app market after launching an investigation in October 2021. Apple also complied with orders asking to pull out now-jailed Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny’s ‘Vote Smart’ app from their stores, citing alleged election interference.

Why does it matter? This incident reflects a broader pattern of Russia taking measures to restrict online speech and content that it perceives as inaccurate or detrimental to its interests (such as with Google and Twitch). In recent months, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and Russian independent media organisations have been urging leaders of major technology companies to take action and prevent a potential shutdown of information flow within Russia.