Tech

Russia Hits Back After Google Chief Said It May Downgrade RT/Sputnik

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Eric Lieberman Deputy Editor

Russian authorities reportedly alluded to some sort of revenge Tuesday in response to threatening comments made by Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google parent company Alphabet, regarding Kremlin-owned news agencies.

“We will receive an answer and understand what to do next,” said Alexander Zharov, head of media regulator Roskomnadzor, according to Reuters. “We hope our opinion will be heard, and we won’t have to resort to more serious” retaliatory measures.

The apparently stern statement comes after Schmidt said Saturday that Google is actively trying to identify and downgrade news stories from Russia Today (RT) and Sputnik because of a bias in their content.

“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 firms. “It’s basically RT [Russia Today] and Sputnik. We’re well aware and we’re trying to engineer the systems to prevent it.”

Schmidt added that they “don’t want to ban the sites” because “that’s not now we operate,” according to Motherboard. Rather, he just wants to give “those kinds of websites” less prominence in respect to positioning on the platform.

A Google representative told The Daily Caller News Foundation that Schmidt’s comments were merely referring to an initiative publicly announced in April, which doesn’t reference any specific news agencies, including the two respective aforementioned ones.

Nonetheless, RT’s editor in chief, Margarita Simonyan, was not too pleased with Schmidt’s statement, but seemed glad it was made since it purportedly showed the tech conglomerate’s true colors.

“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 TheDCNF.

The ostensible plans to demote RT and Sputnik come less than a month after Twitter relinquished its business relationship with the two Russian firms by no longer allowing it to market on the platform. (RELATED: Following Charlottesville, Companies Are Laying Down The Hammer. But What’s The Criteria?)

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 alleged that such a retrospective probe proves RT and Sputnik “attempted to interfere with the election on behalf of the Russian government.”

Russia responded to that move as well.

“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 a Facebook post, that was loosely translated by the platform, from Maria Zakharova, the director of the information and press department of the ministry of foreign affairs in Russia. “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.” (RELATED: How The Daily Stormer Went From GoDaddy To The Shadows Of The Dark Web)

Not long after, a BuzzFeed News report alleged that Twitter actually pushed RT to spend more money on ads in the run-up to the 2016 election.

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