Opinion » Columnists
Author`s name Vadim Gorshenin

Russian communications watchdog turns blind eye on Google's moves to re-rank Russian media

I have never interfered in the topic of the relationship of Google, RussiaToday and Russia's communications watchdog Roskomnadzor. They have their own special relationship.

RussiaToday receives good funding for work abroad as a state information service. The channel  can (could?) pay good enough money for advertising its products on Twitter, Facebook and so on. I do not know whether it is good or bad. It always seemed to me that the best advertising of a news website is the product that this website makes.

We proceeded from this assumption to launch the English version of Pravda.Ru in 2000. Over the years, we have been able to create a database of authors, who would be willing to submit their pieces to us from America, Europe and Asia. Those people did not ask for any remuneration, they were willing to submit articles for free to share their point of view with the world. There was a time when Pravda.Ru took the lead among all other Russian websites in the English language, outstripping even the well-financed English version of RIA Novosti news agency.

That time has passed. RussiaToday bought many of our volunteer authors, having created its own network of West-oriented resources, and it was the right step to make from the point of view of the state.

Problems started when the Democratic Party of the United States was not satisfied with the victory of Donald Trump at the presidential election. US officials started accusing Russia and Russia-based English languages media outlets of many things. About a year ago, the English version of Pravda.Ru was blacklisted as an unreliable source of information for American citizens. A little later, the shadow from the now-American foreign agent, RussiaToday, sharply downgraded Pravda.Ru in Google search rankings.

Since May 2017, the number of visitors coming from Google search engine (which was not huge anyway) has dropped by 4-4.5 times.

Why am I saying this? RussiaToday and its editor-in-chief, Margarita Simonyan, was absolutely right to have raised the topic of downgrading their resource in Google. The fact that Roskomnadzor watchdog appealed to the corporation regarding this matter was also right. Google responded to the inquiry from Roskomnadzor saying that it was not planning any re-rankings.

Deputy head of Roskomnadzor, Vadim Subbotin, said: "We positively took Google's response to our letter. It would have been extremely disappointing to receive a confirmation that one of the most transparent and open-minded companies in the world has abandoned its principles and, in fact, introduced censorship."

At the same time, Subbotin noted that Roskomnadzor would start monitoring changes in the situation of Russian media outlets in the news coverage to keep finger on the pulse.

Unfortunately, the above has once again strengthened my conviction on the following: official statements have nothing to do with reality.

Mr. Subbotin, what kind of monitoring can you conduct, when - I am certain - you can learn from this particular article about the existence of the English-language website, which saw the light when you were only 17?

In August, Roskomnadzor issued three warnings to Pravda.Ru at a time, when our correspondents did not mention the fact in their materials that the activities of Ukrainian "Right Sector" movement was banned in Russia. Three warnings at a time for one violation only! I then told you personally that most of Pravda.Ru journalists were included on the list of "Peacemaker." From this point of view, the warnings from Roskomnadzor were ridiculous, but you did not agree (I believe because of the pressure "from above").

I have no idea what kind of monitoring you can conduct if you were not going to address publishers. Where were you going to get information from for your monitoring? FYI, Google has been downgrading the English version of Pravda.Ru for six months already.

What actions will Roskomnadzor take in this regard?

Vadim Gorshenin
Pravda.Ru

Read article on the Russian version of Pravda.Ru

P.S. We have not received any response to our questions yet

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