At Saturday’s Halifax International Security Forum, Eric Schmidt announced that Google will alter its search algorithm to “de-rank” results from Russia Today.
Why did Google do this? Perhaps they were concerned about Russia meddling in American elections or they thought their customers wished to see less of Russia Today. It matters not. Generally, Google has broad power to police its platform. We might not like the decision, but it is not ours to make.
Feinstein boldly asked Google to hamper RT’s ability to communicate with American audiences.
There is a second possibility. Government officials may have threatened Google to bring about this “de-ranking” of Russia Today. If so, the First Amendment poses questions for us. We need to answer such questions, however, only if government officials did, in fact, threaten Google.
Congressional Pressure on Google
Consider the following exchange between Sen. Feinstein and Google General Counsel Kent Walker from the Senate Intelligence Committee hearings on Russian influence in the 2016 election:
Feinstein: Why didn’t Google take any action regarding RT after the intelligence community assessment came out in January of 2017.
Walker: … with regard to RT, we recognize the concerns that have been expressed about RT and concerns about its slanted coverage, this is of course a question that goes beyond the internet, RT is covered, its channel is on major cable television stations, on satellite television stations, its advertising appears in newspapers, magazines, airports, it’s run in hotels in pretty much every city in the United States.
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