- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 7, 2019

Google has begun complying with a Russian law prohibiting search engines from linking to websites banned under Moscow’s strict censorship regime, regional media reported Thursday.

Vedomosti, a Russian business daily, reported that Google has reached an agreement involving an ever-growing blacklist maintained by Roskomnadzor, the government’s internet and media watchdog, months after its reluctance caused federal regulators to consider blocking access within Russia to the world’s most-visited website.

Roskomnadzor had demanded that Google connect to a registry containing a list of banned websites to exclude from search results displayed to users connected to the internet within Russia, and the regulator imposed fines last year when the company failed to follow through.

Google has since filtered around 70 percent of the banned websites from its search results, and the company has agreed to receive a daily list from Roskomnadzor containing additional sites alleged to violate Russian law that it will consider similarly excluding pending further research, Vedomosti reported, citing an unnamed source.

“We have developed a constructive dialogue with Google and this dialogue currently satisfies us,” Roskomnadzor spokesman Vadim Ampelonsky said Thursday, the state-run RIA Novosti agency reported.

“We’re committed to enabling access to information for the benefit of our users in Russia and around the world,” a Google spokesperson told The Washington Times.

Federal legislation adopted in 2017 prohibits search engines from disseminating websites banned by Russian censors, and Roskomnadzor fined Google roughly $7,500 last year for failing to exclude sites included on the regulator’s blacklist.

Vadim Subbotin, the regulator’s deputy director, later suggested that lawmakers consider legislation that would “make it possible to block access to Google in Russia.”

Russian law prohibits websites that promote violent extremism and child pornography, in addition to subjects including drugs, suicide and online gambling. Federal regulators have earned a reputation abroad for excessive censorship, however, particularly in light of authorities frequently targeting sites critical of Russian President Vladimir Putin and his policies.

Google received a total of 19,192 requests during the first half of 2018 from Russian authorities seeking the removal of certain content, up 36 percent from the same span a year earlier, according to the company’s latest transparency report.

Three-quarters of all take-down requests received by Google during the first half of 2018 came from Russia authorities, the report said.

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