Google’s announcement that it is working to reduce the presence of Russian media in its news feeds has been slammed by lawmakers and political commentators as an act of aggression which will have a global impact on the freedom of speech and thought.
“This is an open form of information warfare waged right now – a bombardment, a direct aggression” against the Russian news outlets, Andrey Svintsov, deputy chairman of the State Duma Committee for Information Policy, Information Technologies and Communications, told RT. The lawmaker explained that tweaking search results for the news category would cut off the global readership that remains interested in the Russian position on global events, calling it a “powerful blow” to the freedom of speech.
“We as MPs should think about… limiting [the use of] the Google search engine, as well as certain social networks belonging to this holding in Russia,” Svintsov said. Meanwhile, the head of the Russian Upper House Commission for Information Policy, Senator Aleksey Pushkov, also wondered whether Google should be “de-ranked” in Russia in a tit-for-tat response.
Eric Schmidt, the executive chairman of Google’s parent company, Alphabet, said earlier that the company is “trying to engineer the systems” to prevent RT and Sputnik content from reaching wider audiences. RT Editor-in-Chief Margarita Simonyan criticized the initiative as an arbitrary form of censorship that defies “all logic and reason.”
Google’s initiative will have a direct impact on “freedom of speech and thought” in the US, believes Prof. Dan Kovalik, from the University of Pittsburgh School of Law.
“It is a form of censorship, and the idea is to lead readers away from RT content. And it will have an impact on the discourse in this country,” Kovalik told RT. “When [you start] censoring anyone, they are going to censor everyone, and I think everyone in the US should be appalled by this and very concerned.”
The human rights lawyer remains certain that US companies initiated an anti-RT campaign to woo the American government at the expense of free speech.
“I think what you see has happened is that Google, Twitter and Facebook have been pressured by the US government to try to essentially [put] blame on Russia where there is none, and to appear somehow that they are working with the US government against Russia. And they have bowed to this pressure,” Kovalik said.
Kovalik also argued that RT presents an alternative point of view that is simply incompatible with US policies.
“I do believe that there is a concern in the US government and the mainstream media of this alternative narrative about what is happening in Syria, for example, about whether the US is truly fighting terrorism Syria as it claims. Well, Russia has a different view of that. RT has a different view of that. The same thing in Ukraine. The US has been backing neo-Nazis in Ukraine. That is something that the powers to be don’t want Americans to know. And so, I think the attack on RT, which has a very different view of those things, is an attack on those alternative narratives of issues that are very important to the American people,” he said.
Google is dancing to the tune of the US government as part of the broader campaign to demonize Russia, political commentator and TV host Steve Malzberg told RT.
“This is all about the fact that Russia is right now the enemy. Russia has been made the enemy by the left, the Democrats and, by definition, the media. The media has been nonstop for a year now about ‘evil Russia.’ Anything associated with the ‘evil Russia’ will incur the wrath of the government,” Malzberg said. “It is because they have been called in before Congress and because of this witch hunt that is going on… They don’t want to risk the wrath of Congress, and that is the problem.”
“There has been nothing found in the whole Russian collusion investigation so far. And there really no meat here when it comes to RT and nefarious doings and dealings, but that does not stop them. They are just going with the flow,” the political commentator added.
Malzberg noted that if Google really wanted to address the so-called ‘fake news’ phenomenon, they should look in their own backyard and check the information flow that comes out of the US mainstream media.
“If they wanted to concentrate on the real program, they certainly have all the opportunity to look at what I call propaganda from the leftist mainstream news media… But they do not have interest in that, because Congress isn’t calling them to say, ‘Oh, big bad CNN or big, bad, evil MSNBC’,” Malzberg said. “Russia is ‘boogeyman’ right now, and this is all part of that deal.”