Russian watchdog blocks Google over “inauthentic” info on war

Ban comes after Google said it would not help platforms sell ads alongside content that condone the conflict in Ukraine.

Russia’s communications regulator has blocked Google’s News, accusing the news aggregator service of spreading false information about the country’s military operation in Ukraine, the Interfax news agency said on Wednesday.

“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,” Google said in statement.

“We’ve worked hard to keep information services like News accessible to people in Russia 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 deemed to exploit, dismiss or condone the conflict in Ukraine. The tech giant also earlier this month announced it would stop selling all online ads in Russia.

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

“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,” Interfax quoted the regulator as saying.

Belinda Barnet, a senior lecturer at Swinburne University of Technology who specicalises in digital media and technology, told Al Jazeera the move is consistent with Russian President Vladimir Putin’s desire to “tightly control the narrative reaching Russian citizens.”

“He hasn’t been terribly successful at controlling the global narrative  – due in part to the actions of platforms like Google blocking Kremlin-aligned outlets – but does still have a stranglehold on his own domestic media outlets,” Barnet said. “So digital media platforms like Google are a threat to that control. This is no surprise.”

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

A new Russian law makes it illegal to report any event that could discredit the Russian military.

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