Chief of Russian media watchdog Roskomnadzor threatened actions against Google over the Alphabet-owned company's plans to sanction Russian state-sponsored websites like Sputnik and Russia Today (RT). According to a Tuesday report from Interfax that was promptly picked up by many mass media outlets around the world, Alexander Zharov had the agency's officials contact Google directly and request clarification on comments made by Alphabet Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt this weekend when the billionaire said that Google Search won't outright delist Russian websites spreading propaganda but is looking into lowering their rankings and make them less prominent in Search results.
Mr. Zharov was quoted as saying he hopes the issue will be resolved without "more serious" retaliation on Russia's part which he suggested will be inevitable should Google move forward with its plan that's understood to be the tech giant's latest attempt at combating the online dissemination of misinformation. Mr. Schmidt's Saturday comments have yet to elicit a more comprehensive response from Moscow which presumably still hasn't decided on how to sanction the company should its news outlets have their traffic reduced as part of Google's initiative. The Mountain View, California-based Internet giant had its share of issues with Russia in recent times, having clashed over everything from Google Play Store listings to antitrust allegations, with the latter being resolved only recently. Russian state media was repeatedly accused of spreading misinformation with the goal of influencing the outcome of the 2016 presidential election in the United States over the last year, with various intelligence agencies previously identifying Sputnik and RT as two particularly large offenders.
Google and other Silicon Valley juggernauts like Facebook are presently facing pressure from Washington to commit additional resources to preventing any future interference with the American democratic process on the part of foreign agents and have assured the regulators they're doing so, albeit details of their efforts to do so remain largely undisclosed. Mr. Schmidt's recent remarks that prompted a harsh response from Roskomnadzor are said to have been related to the company's anti-misinformation initiative started in April when the tech firm vowed to demote misleading and outright false content while simultaneously striving to highlight authentic news, according to a company spokesperson cited by Reuters.