Eric Schmidt, the executive chairman of Google’s parent company Alphabet, recently suggested that Google may downrank results from media outlets funded by the government such as Russia-based RT and Sputnik. That statement appears to have irked the Russians. Roskomnadzor, the country’s communications agency, has reportedly reached out to Google for a clarification of Schmidt’s statement. It hopes that the response will be satisfactory so that it doesn’t have to use “more serious” retaliatory measures.
Roskomnadzor chief Alexander Zharov confirmed to the Interfax news service that the agency has sent a letter to Google requesting more details about the comments made by Schmidt at the Halifax International Security Forum.
“We will receive an answer and understand what to do next,” Zharov was quoted as saying, adding that “We hope our opinion will be heard, and we won’t have to resort to more serious” retaliatory measures.
Schmidt’s comments were in response to an audience member’s question about Sputnik’s prominence in Google news alerts. “We’re well aware of this one, and we’re working on detecting this kind of scenario you’re describing, and again, de-ranking those kinds of sites,” he said, calling out both RT and Sputnik by name. Schmidt also pointed out that Google doesn’t want to ban the sites entirely because “that’s not how we operate.”
Sputnik and RT have long been accused of spreading misinformation and propaganda for political aims. Twitter banned both from its advertising network last month to “help protect the integrity of the user experience.” The media outlets are free to use the Twitter platform though, they just can’t advertise on it.