Russia Alleges Google, Facebook Interference In Elections

Russia has accused Facebook and Google of interfering in the just concluded local elections in the country by distributing political advertising on these media platforms, violating Russian election law. "During the monitoring of mass media on voting day, distribution of political advertising in the Google search engine, on the social network Facebook and on video hosting Youtube was established," Russia's communications watchdog Roskomnadzor said in a statement. These actions can be considered as interference in the sovereign affairs of Russia and obstructing the holding of democratic elections in the Russian Federation, according to Roskomnadzor. It said such actions by foreign companies are unacceptable. The Russian communications regulator said that on September 6, it had warned Google and Facebook about the inadmissibility of the distribution of political advertising on September 7 and 8, on the eve and the polling day of the election. Facebook denied the allegations saying the responsibility of complying with local election laws around political advertising lies with the advertisers. One of the apparent reasons behind the government's complaint was Google displaying advertisements for the so-called "Smart Voting" system promoted by opposition leader Alexei Navalny, which were reportedly targeting users searching for data on the local elections in Moscow. The ruling United Russia party suffered major setback in election held to the Moscow city parliament Sunday. The party's image has become so toxic lately that all its candidates contested the election as independents, BBC reported. Most opposition candidates were disqualified from this election, which led to mass protests in capital Moscow over the past several weeks. Google and Facebook are said to be facing ban in Russia for not complying with the country's censorship and the storage of data overseas laws. The U.S. tech giants had faced ire back home over its political advertising policy after the 2016 presidential election.