Google snubs Russian online censorship demands

The move raises questions around Google's confusing stance on compliance with online censorship

The Kremlin's communications regulator Roskomnadzor has reportedly issued repeated requests to Google, emploring it to route search results through the government's online filtration system.

The Russian government fined Google back in December for failing to comply with the state's online censorship law. The fine amounted to 500,000 rubles (5,800) and Google has stayed quiet on that front, it neither commented on or appealed the fine.

Russia passed a law last year which requires search engines to be connected to the federal state information system (FGIS) which allows the government to filter search results in line with its state-wide online censorship campaign.

Speaking to Russian news outlet Interfax, Roskomnadzor spokesperson Vadim Ampelonsky said that the regulator did not hold information about users' search results.

Ampelonsky said that a continued violation of this Russian law would lead to a maximum fine of 700,000 rubles (8,100) being issued to Google which is pocket change to the tech giant and hardly a deterrent.

Domestic web operators such such Yandex, Sputnik and Mail.ru - all services that offer a Yahoo-like experience, an all-in-one mail, search weather and news features - have all complied with the FGIS.

"Google has not agreed to the e-blacklist and remove, blindly, links from the list of our search corpus," said a Google spokesperson to IT Pro. "Instead, we review links sent to us by Rosco on a one-by-one basis and take action after reviewing."

Reports from Interfax say that if Google continues to ignore requests from the Kremlin about compliance with the FGIS, then a severe measure could be taken to outlaw the search engine in the country altogether.

The report comes as a stark contradiction to Google's apparent stance on state-wide online censorship after the revelation back in November that Google's secret Project Dragonfly, a search engine tailored for China's censorship laws, was in development.

Google had previously boycotted China back in 2010 following the state's targeted hacks on Gmail accounts. But recently it was revealed that the company was planning to re-enter China with a tailor-made search which specifically complied with the state's strict censorship laws.

The search engine was designed to block searches relating to human rights, democracy, religion and peaceful protesting but as a result of internal rifts relating to the company's privacy policies and how the project would be violating them, the project was shut down in December 2018.

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