Google starts censoring search results in Russia

Despite previously refusing to cooperate with Moscow, Google has now reportedly teamed up with Russian telecom watchdog Roskomnadzor and has begun removing links to websites it has blacklisted.

The California-headquartered internet giant has already deleted around 70 percent of the websites containing information banned in Russia, Vedomosti business daily reported Wednesday, citing a source in Google. RT contacted Google’s press office for more details, but it is yet to respond.

Roskomnadzor blacklists websites containing banned topics such as child pornography, drugs, and suicide. The watchdog has also come under fire for what many deemed an overreach, as it has a history of banning pages on popular websites from Wikipedia to PornHub.

The telecom regulator has been in a long row with Google as the Alphabet company had refused to comply with Russian laws. Google was fined 500,000 rubles ($7,500) in December for refusing to connect its search engine to the federal database of banned websites, which contains around 120,000 URLs. Roskomnadzor has even threatened to block Google in Russia if the tech giant doesn’t change its behavior.

Though Google has hesitated to impose content filters in Russia, it has been caught in attempts to censor search results both at home in the US and abroad. An internal briefing leaked to the media last year stated that free speech is a “utopian idea,” and creating “ordered spaces for safety and civility” is Google’s new mission.

Google has also been accused of manually tweaking search results on controversial topics such as abortions and immigration as well as on political figures such as Rep. Maxine Waters. In August, The Intercept reported about Google’s plans to launch a censored version of its search engine in China.

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