Russia blocks Google News after ad ban on content condoning Ukraine invasion

Google announced action against users who ‘exploit, dismiss or condone’ Putin’s war

Russia has blocked Google News, accusing it of promoting “inauthentic information” about the invasion of Ukraine. The ban came just hours after Google announced it would not allow users worldwide to monetise content that “exploits, dismisses, or condones” the war.

Google’s new policy affects any website, app or YouTube channel that earns revenue from advertising managed by the search engine. It has long had a policy that bars adverts from appearing next to any content that “incites violence” and says the new policy clarifies and expands those rules.

“We can confirm that we’re taking additional steps to clarify, and in some instances expand, our monetisation guidelines as they relate to the war in Ukraine,” a Google spokesperson said.

The company had already taken action against Russian state-funded media in late February, and paused all adverts for Russian users earlier this month. The latest ban could cut off funding to western media supportive of Russia, even if they have no clear financial tie to the state itself.

Within hours of Google’s new policy, the Russian internet regulator, Roskomnadzor, announced its own ban, blocking Google News in its entirety from internet users. “Based on a request from the Russian prosecutor general’s office, Roskomnadzor has restricted access to the internet service in the country,” the body said in a statement. “The mentioned US internet news resource provided access to numerous publications and materials containing unreliable, publicly significant information about the course of the special military operation in Ukraine.”

Roskomnadzor has been steadily taking action against US internet giants as the war in Ukraine has progressed. A week after Russia first invaded, it blocked Facebook and Twitter in apparent retaliation for those two companies removing Russian state media including RT and Sputnik from their platforms. The official explanation listed 26 cases of “discrimination” against Russian media by Facebook since October 2020.

Initially, the ban focused only on Facebook itself, which has low penetration in Russia, sparing the popular apps Instagram and WhatsApp from a ban. But on 11 March, those were added to the block list, following a policy change from Facebook to allow Ukrainian users to make violent threats against Russian soldiers. “These are temporary measures designed to preserve voice and expression for people who are facing invasion,” Facebook said at the time.


Alex Hern UK technology editor

The GuardianTramp

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