Earlier this week, Alphabet chairman Eric Schmidt said Google would lower the visibility of articles from government-funded Russian outlets RT and Sputnik in its search results. The move has prompted Alexander Zharov, head of Russian media regulator Roskomnadzor, to send a letter to Google asking for clarification on its position.
“We will receive an answer and understand what to do next,” Zhorov said, according to Interfax. “We hope our opinion will be heard, and we won’t have to resort to more serious” retaliatory measures.
While speaking at the Halifax Security Forum on Saturday, Schmidt answered a question about Sputnik’s prominent appearance in Google’s news alerts. American intelligence agencies claim both RT and Sputnik played a role in influencing US voter opinion during the 2016 election through the spread of misinformation.
“It's basically RT and Sputnik are the two, and there's a whole bunch of coverage about what we're doing there. But we're well aware of it, we're trying to engineer the systems to prevent it,” said Schmidt.
Although Google is lowering the organizations’ positions in the search rankings, Schmidt emphasized that “we don’t want to ban the sites; that’s not how we operate.”
Zharov said he would wait to “see how discriminating this measure will be in its practical embodiment” before taking further action.
Google spokeswoman Andrea Faville told Reuters that Schmidt’s comments referred to ongoing efforts announced in April to demote search results that link to low quality, false and deliberately misleading content, while also promoting “authoritative” pages.