Google Caves On Russian Censorship

from the be-evil? dept

Late last year, we were among those disappointed by leaked news from Google that it was toying around with a censored search engine for China -- a country that the company had mostly left nearly a decade ago. After loud complaints both from people outside the company and many within, reports in late December said that the company had quietly halted efforts to build a censored Chinese search engine.

But now... the company may be dipping its toe in the evil pool again, as it has apparently agreed to cooperate with Russia's censors. This is a battle that's been going on for some time. Over the last few years, Russia has passed a number of internet censorship laws, and there have been lots of questions about how Google and other tech giants would respond. A year ago, we noted that Facebook/Instagram had decided to cave in and that ratcheted up the pressure on Google.

It should be noted that Russia has been on Google's case for a while, and the company had been resisting such pressure. Indeed, the company actually shut down its Russian office a few years back to try to protect itself (and its employees) from Russian legal threats.

But, apparently, something has changed:

The business news source Vedomosti is reporting that Google has struck a deal with Russian censors to continue operating in the country by deleting websites that are banned in Russia from its results. The government censorship agency Roskomnadzor maintains a registry of sites that may not be distributed on Russian territory, but Google is one of a few search engines that does not subscribe to that registry. However, the company regularly deletes links from its search results that Roskomnadzor has banned, sources within both Roskomnadzor and Google told Vedomosti.

The report notes that, previously, Roskomnadzor had just been fining Google for its failures, and the company had been simply paying the fines. Now, however, it will sign up to censor the official list of sites, which is large and constantly growing. Given what the company just went through with the whole China debacle, you would think the company would be more thoughtful about this kind of thing. This is an unfortunate decision.

Filed Under: censorship, roskomnadzor, russia, search results, site blocking
Companies: google


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  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 11 Feb 2019 @ 2:19pm

    'We're not in your country... here's the money you demanded.'

    Indeed, the company actually shut down its Russian office a few years back to try to protect itself (and its employees) from Russian legal threats.

    ...

    The report notes that, previously, Roskomnadzor had just been fining Google for its failures, and the company had been simply paying the fines.

    Wait, what? They deliberately removed themselves from the country to avoid legal troubles, yet they've been paying the 'fines' anyway? They might as well have kept the office open if they were just going to pay up for 'non-compliance' anyway.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      James Burkhardt (profile), 11 Feb 2019 @ 3:06pm

      Re: 'We're not in your country... here's the money you demanded.

      The shutdown of the office failed to protect Google it would seem, but that does not mean it failed to protect employees who could have faced more direct threats.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 11 Feb 2019 @ 4:41pm

      Re: 'We're not in your country... here's the money you demanded.

      To totally avoid Russia's reach, they'd have to stop accepting Russian credit cards for Android app purchases.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Feb 2019 @ 2:35pm

    Who are You?

    And what have you done with the infamous Google shill Mike Masnick?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile), 11 Feb 2019 @ 2:52pm

    Cut 'em off at the knees, or ankles or toes

    It may not matter in the future as Russia is doing a practice disconnect from the Internet. Of course if they actually do this for real, they will have less ability to impact political events in other countries, so I don't think they actually will. Doing a partial shutdown where the public cannot access it but government agents can seems more likely.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Feb 2019 @ 3:07pm

    I wonder if this decision is due to Sundar Pichai? He's made other decisions I am strongly opposed to on a moral level and it wouldn't surprise me if he was involved here.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    bob, 11 Feb 2019 @ 3:14pm

    Maybe the stocks are starting to dip so they caved to try and appear like growth is consistently increasing instead of revenue holding steady.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    laminar flow (profile), 11 Feb 2019 @ 7:09pm

    Remember when Google's motto was, "don't be evil"? Evil is tempting. And evil is lucrative.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Pixelation, 11 Feb 2019 @ 7:14pm

    Apparently Google brass are afraid of getting poisoned. Wouldn't you be, comrade?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Feb 2019 @ 7:40pm

    Google already censors search results anytime they like.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Feb 2019 @ 11:21pm

    Hardly surprising since they've been censoring the results for everyone else for years.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Feb 2019 @ 5:43am

    If there is a list of websites that must be censored/removed, aka blacklist, then it follows that there is a white list. I am curious what such a list might contain.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 12 Feb 2019 @ 7:12am

      Re:

      Not necessarily. The two lists can be mutually exclusive. You can allow all websites except for the specified ones (blacklist). Or you can block all websites and only allow specified ones (whitelist).

      There are some instances where you would have both but just because one exists doesn't necessarily imply the existence of the other.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 12 Feb 2019 @ 7:24am

        Re: Re:

        Websites that minions use are subject to being blacklisted, while the websites owned by the privileged are not subject to censorship or criticism of any kind. Maybe there is not a list and everyone just knows to not say anything about those places.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 12 Feb 2019 @ 8:11am

          Re: Re: Re:

          WTF.

          I can blacklist any site I want on my firewall. If I want to block google it takes me all of two seconds to add them to my blacklist and nobody behind my firewall will ever be able to get to it. This scales up to any size company or nation/state/country. A few clicks and BAM! your site is blocked for whatever portion of network you control.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 12 Feb 2019 @ 8:23am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            Not talking about your firewall

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            • identicon
              Anonymous Coward, 12 Feb 2019 @ 8:32am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              Doesn't matter. My firewall works the same as anyone else's firewall/DNS/network/web filter/etc... Hence why I said it scales up. Besides, your post implied NO ONE could blacklist a site owned by someone privileged. Since I can, that proves that to be false.

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Thad (profile), 12 Feb 2019 @ 11:30am

      Re:

      If there is a list of websites that must be censored/removed, aka blacklist, then it follows that there is a white list.

      Either you've never used an adblocker or you're being intentionally obtuse.

      An adblocker is a trivial example of a program that is based on a blacklist and that may also use a whitelist but does not require one.

      So what was the basis for your incorrect statement -- ignorance, or dishonesty?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Ed (profile), 12 Feb 2019 @ 8:00am

    F Russia

    WTF do we need to have any connection to Russia at all? Is their "search market" really that profitable to overcome the headache of allowing them to connect to the rest of the world? Cut the f'ers off.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 12 Feb 2019 @ 9:47am

      Re: F Russia

      Isolating a country because of their government only males it easier for that government to turn its population against the rest of the world. Leave them connected and reasonable people have a reason to work on changing the countries politics.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Rekrul, 12 Feb 2019 @ 1:50pm

    When people quote Google's "Don't be evil" motto, they never seem to include the second part; "as long as it doesn't cut into profit margins."

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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