In an effort to control all information on the Internet, the Kremlin is using the same procedures that it used to control the main media, and in particular television channels, after Vladimir Putin was elected to power.
Gazprombank just transferred 45% shares of MF Technologies JSC over to Gazprom Media Holding JSC. This curiously is headed by Alexander Zharov, a former Roskomnadzor director. Roskomnadzor is the communications regulatory agency that promotes lawsuits against foreign tech companies like Google, Meta and YouTube.
MF Technologies controls 57.3% in voting shares of VKontakte, the largest European social network and one of largest worldwide. VK includes Odnoklassniki, Mail.ru and the VKontakte social media network.
Gazprom Media representatives were quoted by the TASS agency as saying that the holding company is the biggest producer of in-demand and popular content in the country. VK's owners have changed the direction of the company. Vladimir Kiriyenko is the new director. He is the son of Sergei Kiriyenko and number two in the Kremlin Administration.
Roskomnadzor also filed lawsuits against US technology companies Google, Meta and others. These suits could result in further fines. They failed to fulfill the "obligation" of removing vetoed material.
Roskomnadzor notified in October Alphabet's Google, and Meta's Facebook of sanctions that amount to a percentage their annual turnover. Russian law permits companies to be fined up to 10% or 5% of their annual turnover in such cases. Two companies were summoned by the Moscow Taganski Court for a hearing on December 24,
Russia is seeing a trend toward greater Internet control through increased pressure on foreign technology companies. Twitter traffic has been slowing down since March and companies have been fined. Google has already paid penalties totalling more than 32,000,000 rubles (380,000 euros) this year.
Roskomnadzor also blocked six popular virtual private network applications (VPNs) that allowed access to banned websites in Russia. The Russian government has been blocking websites that refuse to disclose their data or support Russia's main enemy, Alexei Navalni, in recent years.
The Kremlin warned that Russian social networks could be destroyed in March. Dmitri Perskov, the spokesperson for the Presidency, stated that it was not possible to ban social networks "due to moderation criteria," especially political ones. Twitter was very close to being locked down. "No one would advocate a total ban. Peskov cautioned that we must force these companies into following our rules. Peskov stated that "no self-respecting nation would allow a company to impose its conditions upon it."