As a media war between Russia and the United States escalates, Russia has threatened to block ads appearing on Google, existentially cutting off the online giant’s revenue stream in the country.
The move comes after Google announced plans to “de-rank” Kremlin-funded RT and Sputnik in news search results. This past weekend, Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google’s parent company Alphabet, said that the search engine was preparing to de-rank posts related to Russian news outlets, which are accused of spreading misleading pro-Kremlin propaganda.
Russian media watchdog Roskomnadzor has demanded Google explain its reasoning behind the de-ranking plans. The State Duma, the lower chamber of the Russian parliament, was more aggressive.
“”We are also concerned about the situation with information that’s undesirable and dangerous for readers,” Piotr Tolstoy, deputy chairman of the State Duma, was quoted as saying by RIA Novosti. “We would like to talk to [Google] about how to defend Russian citizens from dangerous content. And if we can’t come to terms, let’s just block all their ads with a legislative decision.”
Russia’s media watchdog has already threatened to block Facebook in the country, accusing the social network of violating a controversial data storage law requiring that Russian citizens’ personal data be stored within Russia. Data on international Facebook users is often stored on servers located in the United States.
The media war between Russia and the United States has erupted against the backdrop of an investigation into alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. In the course of the investigation, RT has been accused of spreading political propaganda. The network was required to register as a foreign agent in the U.S. Russia responded with calls to require U.S.-backed outlets Voice of America and Radio Liberty to also register as foreign agents to continue operations in Russia.
Earlier this month, Russian online news outlet Federal News Agency accused Google of political censorship as its stories no longer show up on Google News’ search results.