Russian regulator blocks Google over “inauthentic” info on war | Technology

The ban comes after Google said it wouldn’t help platforms sell ads along with content that’s defrauded by the conflict in Ukraine.

Russia’s media regulator has blocked Google News, accusing the news aggregator service of spreading disinformation about the country’s military operations in Ukraine, Russia’s Interfax news agency said on Wednesday.

“We have confirmed that some people are experiencing difficulties accessing the Google News app and website in Russia and this is not due to any technical issue on our part,” Google said. in a statement.

“We have worked hard to keep people in Russia accessible to information services like News for as long as possible.”

The move comes after Google said it would not help websites, apps and YouTube channels sell ads alongside content that allegedly exploits, disavows or condone the conflict in Ukraine. Earlier this month, the tech giant also announced it would stop selling all online advertising in Russia.

Interfax said Roskomnadzor, Russia’s regulator, acted on a request from the Russian prosecutor general’s office.

“The US online news source in question provided access to many publications and documents containing important non-authentic and public information about the course of special military operations on Ukrainian territory,” Interfax quoted the regulator as saying.

Belinda Barnet, a senior lecturer at Swinburne University of Technology specializing in technology and digital media, told Al Jazeera that the move is in line with Russian President Vladimir Putin’s desire to “tightly control” close reporting to Russian citizens”.

“He hasn’t been terribly successful in controlling the global narrative — partly due to the actions of platforms like Google that block Kremlin-linked stores — but still has a force in the media. his domestic media,” Barnet said. “So digital media platforms like Google are a threat to that control. This is not surprising.”

‘Extreme activity’

The Russian regulator’s announcement came after it last week ask Google to stop allows the spread of threats on YouTube that are “terrorist in nature and threaten the life and health of Russian citizens”.

Rob Nicholls, associate professor of regulation and governance at the University of New South Wales School of Business, told Al Jazeera that the ban on Google News reflects the service’s significant influence and reach. .

“Google banning content that exploits, denies or condone the conflict in Ukraine would be a problem for Moscow. However, blocking access is an important step,” says Nicholls. “It is likely that the same geoblocking will be extended to other major networks as Moscow tries to control narrative of the conflict. It’s hard to describe the conflict as a “special operation” when Google News provides access to NATO casualty estimates. ”

Under a law signed by Putin earlier this month, spreading “fake news” about the Russian military carries a prison sentence of up to 15 years.

On Monday, a Russian court banned Facebook and Instagram in the country after finding them responsible for “radical activities”.

The ruling comes after parent company Meta said earlier this month that it would relax its hate speech policies to allow users in Ukraine to express violent feelings towards leaders. and Russian soldiers in the context of the ongoing war.

Nick Clegg, president of global affairs at Meta, later announced the policy would be scaled back to ban calls to kill a head of state and to clarify that it should not be construed as “tolerating violence”. force against the Russians in general”.

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