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Russia's regulator blocks access to Google News over Ukraine war 'false information'

Access to Google News has been blocked in Russia as of Wednesday March 23, 2022.
Access to Google News has been blocked in Russia as of Wednesday March 23, 2022.   -   Copyright  Jeff Chiu/Associated Press
By Euronews and AFP

Roskomnadzor, Russia's media regulator, has restricted access to Google News, accusing it of providing access to "false" information about Russia's offensive in Ukraine, Russian news agencies reported on Wednesday.

The decision was taken at the request of the Russian General Prosecutor's Office, according to a Roskomnadzor statement quoted by the agencies.

Google's online news service "provided access to numerous publications and materials that contain false information (...) about the course of the special military operation on Ukrainian territory," the statement said.

In a statement to Euronews Next, the company “confirmed that some people are having difficulty accessing the Google News app and website in Russia and that this is not due to any technical issues on our end". 

"We’ve worked hard to keep information services like News accessible to people in Russia for as long as possible,” the Google spokesperson said.

Since the start of Russia's intervention in Ukraine on February 24, the Russian government has considerably tightened its control over news disseminated on the internet, one of the last spaces of free expression in the country.

Many Russian and foreign media, including Euronews, have been banned and the American social networks Facebook and Instagram have been declared "extremist" by a Moscow court.

Access to Twitter has also been restricted.

Last week, Roskomnadzor accused the US giant Google and its video service YouTube of "terrorist" activities, the first step towards a possible blocking.

At the same time, the authorities introduced two new criminal offences at the beginning of March: one for spreading information "discrediting" the Russian military and another for disseminating "false" information about Russian troops.

The latter offence carries penalties of up to 15 years in prison and is of particular concern to opponents and independent media, who fear prosecution for any reporting on the offensive.