Justin Ling — Mother Board Vice Nov 20, 2017
Eric Schmidt, Executive Chairman of Alphabet, says the company is working to ferret out Russian propaganda from Google News after facing criticism that Kremlin-owned media sites had been given plum placement on the search giant’s news and advertising platforms.
“We’re well aware of this one, and we’re working on detecting this kind of scenario you’re describing and deranking those kinds of sites,” Schmidt said, after being asked why the world’s largest search company continued to classify the Russian sites as news.
Schmidt, in an interview at the Halifax International Security Forum over the weekend, name-checked two state-owned enterprises.
“It’s basically RT and Sputnik,” Schmidt added. “We’re well aware and we’re trying to engineer the systems to prevent it.”
Both outlets are wholly owned by the Russian government. RT is the overseas television station and online outlet, while Sputnik, the online-only media network, is available in over 30 languages.
But while Schmidt was willing to take aim at those outlets, and call them out for the “spread of misinformation—or worse,” he provided little in the way of concrete plans to lessen the state broadcasters’ reach on his digital properties.
The two Russian outlets have been at the centre of questions over Moscow’s efforts to influence politics in the West, and they have shown an adept understanding of how to expand their reach by using the internet, most notably through Google News and Alphabet-owned YouTube.
In January, a publicly released American intelligence assessment concluded that RT and Sputnik “contributed to the influence campaign by serving as a platform for Kremlin messaging to Russian and international audiences.” Earlier this month, RT registered with the US Department of Justice as a “foreign agent.”
Even still, both networks have aggressively contended that they are legitimate news organizations, and have benefitted from being recognized as a legitimate outlet under Google News. They have been displayed prominently in news alerts—including emails and push notifications. The outlets have also enjoyed being monetized under Google AdSense, which manages ad placement for its clients and offers them a share of the revenue.