By Eric Lieberman
Google is in the process of demoting or purging content from Kremlin-owned media agencies, Eric Schmidt, the executive chairman of Google parent company Alphabet, reportedly said Saturday.
Both public officials and the larger public have criticized Google, along with Facebook, for sometimes featuring Russian news sites and their content prominently on its main platform, just like others in the industry around the world.
“We’re working on detecting this kind of scenario you’re describing and deranking those kinds of sites,” Schmidt said, according to Motherboard, after being questioned about placement of specific news agencies. “It’s basically RT [Russia Today] and Sputnik. We’re well aware and we’re trying to engineer the systems to prevent it.”
Schmidt did not elaborate on particular plans to combat potential mis- or disinformation. He also did not mention other non-U.S. based media outlets, like Al Jazeera, a state-funded broadcaster based in Qatar that, much like RT, presumably has both a coordinated and inherent news bias. Al Jazeera has been sued for sexism and anti-semitism, internal conduct and beliefs that probably trickled down into news coverage. (RELATED: Twitter Ends Relationship With RT For Election Influence, But What About Other Media Outlets?)
The tech leader added that they “don’t want to ban the sites” because “that’s now how we operate,” according to Motherboard.
The ostensible plans to combat RT and Sputnik come less than a month after Twitter nixed its business relationship with the two Russian firms by no longer allowing it to market on the platform. The social media company announced that it would donate $1.9 million advertisement revenue — an estimate of what it collected since 2011 — from RT and Sputnik.
Twitter cited an “internal investigation of their behavior as well as their inclusion in the January 2017 DNI [Director of National Intelligence] report.” It specifically alleges that such a retrospective probe shows that RT and Sputnik “attempted to interfere with the election on behalf of the Russian government.” (RELATED: Russia’s Ad Buy On Facebook Is Small Potatoes In Respect To 2016 Election)
Maria Zakharova, the director of the information and press department of the ministry of foreign affairs in Russia, implied in a scathing post published on Facebook (and ironically Twitter) in October that the U.S. government was involved in Twitter’s choice.
“We view this as another aggressive step aimed at blocking the activities of the Russian TV channel ‘Russia Today’ and it was the result of the pressure of part of the American intelligence,” reads Zakharova’s Facebook post, that was loosely translated by the platform. “The response will naturally follow. It is clear that the obstruction of the Russian media, including through the arsenal of intelligence services, shows a flagrant violation by the United States of America of both international and domestic legislation guaranteeing freedom of expression.”
RT’s Editor in chief, Margarita Simonyan was not too pleased with Schmidt’s statement, but seemed glad it was made publicly.
“Good to have Google on record as defying all logic and reason: facts aren’t allowed if they come from RT, ‘because Russia’ – even if we have Google on Congressional record saying they’ve found no manipulation of their platform or policy violations by RT,” she said in a statement provided to The Daily Caller News Foundation.
Google did not respond to TheDCNF’s request for further details by time of publication, specifically on if other outlets like Al Jazeera would be included in the prospective changes.