Kremlin will take action against Google if articles from Sputnik and Russia Today are placed lower in search results, says Russia's chief media regulator.

RT had received guaranteed ad revenue from YouTube until September, when the Google unit removed it as preferred partner.
RT had received guaranteed ad revenue from YouTube until September, when the Google unit removed it as preferred partner. (TRTWorld)

The Kremlin will take action against Google if articles from Russian news websites Sputnik and Russia Today are placed lower in search results, the Interfax news service cited Russia's chief media regulator as saying on Tuesday.

Alexander Zharov, head of media regulator Roskomnadzor, said that his agency sent a letter to Google on Tuesday requesting clarification on comments by Alphabet Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt about how the Russian websites would be treated in search, according to Interfax.

"We will receive an answer and understand what to do next," Interfax quoted Zharov as saying. 

"We hope our opinion will be heard, and we won't have to resort to more serious" retaliatory measures.

Less prominence to Sputnik and RT 

Schmidt, speaking on stage at the Halifax International Security Forum on Saturday, responded to a question about Sputnik articles appearing on Google by saying the company was working to give less prominence to "those kinds of websites" as opposed to delisting them.

The Russian government funds Sputnik and Russia Today, or RT

Both of the websites published stories that were negative toward Hillary Clinton during the 2016 US presidential election, US intelligence agencies have said.

"It's basically RT and Sputnik that are the two, and there's a whole bunch of coverage about what we're doing there," Schmidt said, according to a video of the talk posted on the event's Facebook page.

Google spokesperson Andrea Faville said that Schmidt was referring to ongoing efforts announced in April to demote search results that link to low quality, false and deliberately misleading content. 

The company said at the time it would work to highlight authoritative content.

"We'll defend our media"

Google does not manually assign rankings to individual websites, Faville said, but analyses a website's attributes to automatically give it a position in results.

RT had received guaranteed ad revenue from YouTube until September, when the Google unit removed it as preferred partner.

Russia's Zharov said he would monitor "how discriminating this measure will be in its practical embodiment," Sputnik reported Tuesday. 

"It is obvious that we will defend our media," he said.

Source: Reuters