Google has confirmed that its news aggregator service Google News has been blocked in Russia. In a statement, the tech giant said that “We’ve confirmed that some people are having difficulty accessing the Google News app and website in Russia and that this is not due to any technical issues on our end.”
According to Interfax, a Russian news agency, Russia’s communications watchdog Roskomnadzor has blocked Google News on accusations that the news aggregator service was promoting the spread of untrue information about the Russia-Ukraine situation.
Google said that “We’ve worked hard to keep information services like News accessible to people in Russia for as long as possible.”
Prior to now, Google blocked Russia’s Sputnik and Russia Today apps from its Play Store following sanctions on the country. The blockage of Google news also comes shortly after Google announced that it would not be a catalyst for apps, websites and YouTube channels looking to sell ads and content taking advantage of the ongoing Russia-Ukraine conflict, and after an announcement that it will stop selling online ads in Russia.
Per Interfax’s report, Roskomnadzor had acted on a request that came from the Prosecutor General’s office. “The American online news resource in question provided access to numerous publications and materials containing inauthentic and publicly important information about the course of the special military operation on the territory of Ukraine,” the regulator said.
Experts are saying that the move is part of Russia’s President Vladimir Putin’s intentions to control the narrative reaching Russian citizens as he has failed terribly at controlling the global narrative. With Google and other platforms, blocking state-owned and controlled media outlets on its platform, Russia is unable to control the global narrative. In other words, digital media outlets that are not controlled by the state being left to operate in Russia are a threat.
Under Russian law, spreading “fake news” about the Russian military is punishable for up to 15 years. The law was signed earlier this month by President Vladimir Putin.
Facebook and Instagram which constitute a fast and easy way to spread information, have also been banned in Russia.