Inside the Kremlin’s War to Control Google

When it comes to improving your search rankings on Google, there are endless theories and strategies used by marketers around the world. One that is new, however, is making direct threats against Google itself, but that is the strategy that Alexander Zharov, the head of media regulator Roskomnadzor, is taking.

Just hours after it was revealed Google will be down-ranking stories from the Kremlin-owned media properties Russia Today (RT) and Sputnik, Russia has announced that it will retaliate against the search giant if it carries through with its plans, Reuters reports. Alexander Zharov, the head of Russian media regulator Roskomnadzor, told Interfax that his agency sent a letter to Google on Tuesday requesting clarification on their intentions.

This started last week when Executive Chairman of Alphabet (the parent company of Google), Eric Schmidt, said that Google would be giving less prominence to ‘those kinds of websites’ when asked a question about the rankings of Russian sites Sputnik and Russia Today. The less prominent rankings is instead of delisting them entirely.  RT—formerly known as Russia Today—routinely shapes its coverage portray Russia in the best possible light, and to make the West, and especially the United States, look bad.

Russian media in the US have been under increased pressure in the wake of the probe into Moscow’s alleged interference in the US presidential election, with Twitter blocking advertising from the channels owned by RT and Sputnik. At the same time, at a Congress hearing as part of the so-called Russia probe, tech giants, namely Twitter, Facebook and Google, have confirmed the lack of evidence of Russian media’s interference in the US elections. For its part, Moscow has repeatedly called such claims groundless

Google has discovered that Russian operatives spent tens of thousands of dollars on ads on YouTube, Google search, Gmail and other outlets promoting Russia Today stories, among other things.

In response, Zharov said, “We will receive an answer and understand what to do next. We hope our opinion will be heard, and we won’t have to resort to more serious” retaliatory measures.

It is obviously not clear exactly what they will be able to do. He went on to say that he would be monitoring, ‘how discriminating this measure will be in its practical embodiment. It is obvious that we will defend our media.’

Most recently, US Congressional Press Galleries took away credentials from RT America after it had been forced to register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act earlier in November.

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