Eric Schmidt, the executive chairman of Google’s parent company, ‘Alphabet’ may have started a war of words with Russia, or at least a war of clarification. In a recent interview, Schmidt was asked about the prevalence of Russian news sites on Google News and more specifically certain relationships between those sites and the AdSense monetisation technology.

“We’re aware of this and we’re working on detecting the kind of scenario you’re describing,” said Schmidt. “Again, de-ranking those kinds of sites. It’s RT and Sputnik are the two and there’s a whole bunch of coverage about what we’re doing there, but we’re well aware of it and we’re trying to engineer the systems to prevent it. We don’t want to ban the sites, that’s not how we operate.”

Both Russian news sites RT and Sputnik have responded cautiously to the comments, asking for Schmidt and Google to clarify exactly why they would be targeted for de-ranking, but that was far from the end of it. Roskomnadzor, the Russian Federal Service for the Supervision of Communications reached out to news services through its director, Alexander Zharov. Mr Zharov’s comments have not been published in English, and several news sites have paraphrased what he said, but the context is that the agency is awaiting a response to a request for clarification from Google, and may take further action if that response is not to their satisfaction.
Meanwhile, Google has decided to distance itself from Schmidt’s comments. A spokesperson said that Google does not engineer solutions designed to target specific sites and that Schmidt was speaking generally, not specifically about anyone…despite the fact that he named two news sites.
This is yet another frustration for Google in relation to its Google News product. At least now fake news blogs aren’t taking the primary spot in daily headlines, but it’s hard to see how Google will be able to wade its way through the quagmire of the opinion that is the argument as to what is credible versus what is not.