Kremlin-linked billionaire utilizes new ‘right to be forgotten,’ tries to get critical news articles removed from Yandex
The billionaire Evgeny Prigozhin is demanding that Yandex delete from its search results an article about the Internet Research Agency, better known as Russia's “troll factory.” Several news outlets, including the newspaper Novaya Gazeta, have published articles claiming that Prigozhin is the brains and money behind the troll factory.
The billionaire has also demanded that Yandex delete links to an article titled “Prigozhin's Empire Has Captured Military Towns,” published on Fontanka.ru. The article describes how companies tied to Prigozhin have received state contracts worth roughly 26 billion rubles ($387 million). The companies were hired to provide services to the Ministry of Defense, but—according to Fontanka.ru—they were registered only recently before winning the contracts, and they don't have all the necessary licenses to perform the work.
According to the St.-Petersburg-based publication Moi Raion, Prigozhin is also demanding that Yandex delete search results linking to another article titled “Putin's Thieving Chef,” published in the Ukrainian media outlet Apostrof.
Prigozhin's attorney reportedly listed all these articles during a hearing at a St. Petersburg court. The billionaire is appealing for the deletion of 15 different texts in accordance with Russia's recently enacted “right to be forgotten.”
Evgeny Prigozhin is one of St. Petersburg's most famous entrepreneurs. He owns the company “Concord,” which manages a network of restaurants throughout St. Petersburg and Moscow, including one inside the Russian parliament building (opened in 2009, when Vladimir Putin was Russia's prime minister). Prigozhin's businesses also have several large contracts with the government to serve food to the army and the school system.
Russia's “right to be forgotten” has been in force since January 1, 2016. The law requires Internet search engines to respond to citizens' requests to remove search results linking to personal information that is illegal, inaccurate, or “no longer relevant.” If search engines refuse to comply with citizens' requests, the matter can be brought to court. The maximum penalty for refusing to comply with a court order to remove search results is 1 million rubles (about $15,000).
Russian Internet companies, including Yandex, have strongly criticized the law, saying it is unconstitutional, insofar as it limits the public's right to access valuable information.