MOSCOW, June 1. /TASS/. A court has levied a fine against the WhatsApp messenger app in the amount of 3 million rubles ($37,107) for refusing to remove a chat room that contained offers to sell an antidepressant drug, a TASS correspondent reported from the courtroom of Moscow’s magistrate court department No. 422.
"To find WhatsApp LLC guilty under part 2 of article 13.41 of the Administrative Code of the Russian Federation (failure of the owner of a website to delete information or a web-page in case the obligation to delete such information, such a web page, is included in the legislation of the Russian Federation) and impose a penalty on this entity in the form of a fine in the amount of 3,000,000 rubles," judge Timur Vakhrameyev said.
This is the first time WhatsApp has been fined under this article.
According to the files disclosed about the case, the reason for the decision was a mailout of an offer for the free sale of the Lyrica drug through a separate chat in the messenger. There are special rules for distributing this drug.
Representatives of the messenger did not show up at the hearing, although they were duly notified.
As stated in the case file, an employee of the Federal Service for Surveillance in Healthcare (Roszdravnadzor) revealed a chat in the WhatsApp messenger with an offer to buy Lyrica online. Roszdravnadzor forwarded the information to the media watchdog (Roskomnadzor), who then demanded that the executives at Meta Platforms (recognized as extremist and banned in Russia), which owns WhatsApp, delete the chat. This request was ignored, after which an administrative offense case was initiated.
Lyrica is a medical drug, classed as an antidepressant. It is prescribed for neuropathic pain, anxiety disorders, neurotic and neurosis-like conditions, and epilepsy. The drug is not considered addictive, but its sale on the territory of the Russian Federation is limited.
Previously, Google, Facebook (banned in Russia; owned by Meta Corporation, which is recognized as extremist in Russia) and Twitter were fined for not removing content prohibited in the country. WhatsApp was regularly fined for refusing to localize the data of Russian users in Russia.