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Russia threatens to counterstrike if Google derank RT, Sputnik news sites
19:30, 22 November 2017
Russia threatens to counterstrike if Google derank RT, Sputnik news sites

Chief executive of Google's parent company Alphabet Eric Schmidt said Google was "working on de-ranking" Russian news websites

19:30, 22 November 2017

Open source

Kremlin threatened to backlash if Google gives less prominence in its search results to articles from Russian state-controlled news websites Sputnik and RT, said Radio Liberty with reference to Russian news agency Interfax.

It quoted head of Russia's Roskomnadzor media regulator Aleksandr Zharov, saying that his agency sent a letter to Google on Tuesday requesting to clarify comments by Eric Schmidt, the chief executive of Google's parent company Alphabet, in which he said Google was "working on...de-ranking" the Russian news websites.

"We will receive an answer and understand what to do next. We hope our opinion will be heard, and we won't have to resort to "possible retaliatory measures," Zharov said.

 Schmidt, speaking at the Halifax International Security Forum on November 18, responded to a question about allegations that Sputnik spreads "propaganda" in its articles and said Google was working to give less prominence to "those kinds of websites," rather than delisting them.

"It's basically RT and Sputnik. We're well aware and we're trying to engineer the systems to prevent it," Schmidt said.

Related: Russian media spread lies about 'raised level of radiation' in Chornobyl exclusion zone

 Russian government funds Sputnik and RT, formerly known as Russia Today. U.S. intelligence agencies have said both of the websites spread misinformation and published negative stories about Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton during the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

"We didn't see this a few years ago," Schmidt said. "We didn't realize this could be so pervasive," he noted, adding that the technology industry had been "naive."

Russian disinformation is easy to combat because it involves “amplification around a message" that is "repetitive, exploitative, false (or) likely to have been weaponized," Schmidt said.

As it was reported earlier the scepticism immediately followed EU foreign relations chief Federica Mogherini's proposal for "additional resources" for her Stratcom counter-propaganda unit at a foreign ministers' meeting in Brussels on Monday, November 13. 

EU request for additional funds to counter Russian propaganda is unlikely to lead to much, diplomats have said. She said the money would primarily be spent on her Western Balkans Stratcom cell and on communicating the EU's "positive agenda" more broadly.

It was "too early to assess" the extent of Russia's influence operations in the Western Balkans, she added, but she said "this is one of the files we will work on the most".

Related: PACE President accused Russian media of manipulations explaining his visit to Syria on Defense Ministry aircraft

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