Amazon-owned video streaming service Twitch has once again found itself in the Kremlin’s crosshairs.
On Tuesday, a Russian court fined the streaming service 3 million roubles (or roughly $49,000) for allegedly refusing to remove a two-hour live stream with Ukrainian Presidential Aide Alexey Arestovich, according to Reuters and state-backed Russian media service TASS. Russian authorities claim the video contained “false information,” related to Russia’s military invasion of the Donbas region in Ukraine. Twitch received a similar 2 million roubles fine earlier this month for hosting a 31-second video clip Russian officials claim contained “fake” information over alleged Russian war crimes committed in the Ukrainian town of Bucha.
The infractions follow on the heels of another fine Twitch received in June for allegedly failing to store data it holds on Russian citizens within Russian borders. While Russia’s ramped up enforcement of its harsh media laws since the invasion’s onslaught, that particular data localization law dates back to 2014. Earlier this year, Russia passed new draconian laws criminalizing the spread of supposed fake news related to Russian armed forces or the war in Ukraine. Individuals found in violation of those laws can face up to 15 years in prison.
Twitch did not immediately respond to Gizmodo’s request for comment.
Though Russia wasn’t exactly heralded as a bastion of free expression prior to the war, its recent military occupation has nonetheless pushed its regulators to accelerate fines and infractions, particularly against U.S.-based tech platforms. Back in June, Roskomnadzor, Russia’s telecom regulator, levied a 21 billion ruble (or about $364 million USD) fine against Google for refusing to take down YouTube videos allegedly promoting “extremism and terrorism.” TikTok, meanwhile, recently received a 2 million rouble fine for refusing to take down supposed “LGBT propaganda.”
In other cases, Russia’s moved to restrict access to or eliminate certain western tech companies entirely. Not long into the war, Russia banned access to Facebook and Instagram and moved to designate their parent company, Meta, an “extremist organization.” That puts Meta on a list of organizations that includes ISIS and the Taliban.
Even now, with the war approaching the end of its sixth month, some western tech companies are still preparing their full exit from Russia. In the past two weeks, Ericsson, Nokia, Logitech, and Dell have all announced plans to withdraw their business from the country by the end of the year. Though several of those companies had halted operations earlier in the year, the recent announcements highlight the time it can take for large, hulking multinational companies to pivot away from certain markets.
“By the end of the year, the vast majority of our employees in Russia will have moved on from Nokia, and we have vacated all of our offices,” a Nokia spokesperson told Reuters Monday. “We will retain a formal presence in the country until the legal closure is completed.”