The order also applies to any individual who shares RT content.
EU sanctions aimed at silencing disinformation from Kremlin-backed organisations such as Russia Today require Google to remove them from its search results, it has emerged.
Last week, the European Union outlawed the transmission of RT, removing the channel from satellites and the remaining cable and IPTV networks that hadn’t already decided to cease retransmission. However, it wasn’t clear as to how the order would affect internet companies.
Facebook, Twitter, TikTok and Google-owned YouTube have all indicated they would block any posts from Russian state media accounts in Europe, such as RT and Sputnik.
Google blocks RT, Sputnik from Play app store in EuropeReuters
A document uploaded by Google to the Lumen Database shows the order applies not just to the social media accounts of the two media organisations but also to any individual that shares the content themselves.
The document has not been made publicly available and only became known as part of a report by the Washington Post.
“Providers of internet search services must make sure that i) any link to the internet sites of RT and Sputnik and ii) any content of RT and Sputnik, including short textual descriptions, visual elements and links to the corresponding websites do not appear in the search results delivered to users located in the EU,” reads the entry that goes on to say the right to free speech cannot be used to circumvent the legislation.
08 March 2022 | AP
European Union officials on Tuesday defended the 27-nation bloc’s decision to ban Russian state-controlled media outlets from broadcasting in the region as decisive steps to check a Kremlin-led “information war”.
Speaking at the European Parliament during a debate on foreign interference and disinformation, the EU’s top diplomat Josep Borrell brushed off critics who say the EU is threatening freedom of information with the ban on Sputnik and RT/Russia Today.
“They are not independent media, they are assets, they are weapons, in the Kremlin’s manipulation ecosystem,” Borrell told lawmakers.
“We are not trying to decide what is true and what is false. We don’t have ministers of the Truth. But we have to focus on foreign actors who intentionally, in a coordinated manner, try to manipulate our information environment.”
The EU has decided to suspend the broadcasting activities of Sputnik and RT/Russia Today in the bloc until Russia ends its war in Ukraine and stop disinformation campaigns in member states.
Borrell said Moscow-controlled outlets are part of a well-oiled propaganda machine providing biased news about Vladimir Putin’s true intentions.
“If the information is bad, democracy is bad,” he said, adding that information should be a protected good. “If the information is systematically contaminated by lies and twisted, citizens can’t have a clear understanding of reality and their political judgment is similarly twisted.”
Borrell insisted that Sputnik was created by a presidential decree with the aim of reporting on Russia’s state policies abroad, and said that Russia Today is capable of conducting an “information war” against the western world.
Borrell said he will soon propose a new mechanism that will allow the EU to sanction disinformation actors. Lawmakers from the special committee on foreign interference and disinformation are also proposing to establish a sanctions regime to deal with foreign meddling.
MEP Sandra Kalniete, the author of the report, said it’s crucial for the EU to counter foreign threats in a bid to prevent third countries damaging democracies.
“Let’s call a spade a spade. Russia, China and other authoritarian regimes have funnelled more than $300 million into 33 countries to interfere in democratic processes,” she said.
“Putin’s propaganda machinery wasn’t just switched on on 24 February. It has already been working in Europe for decades, attempting to poison and divide our societies.”
Kaniete said online platforms and tech companies need to suspend all social accounts engaged in “denying, glorifying and justifying Putin’s aggression, war crimes and crimes against humanity.”
She also proposed to reinforce content in Russian and Ukrainian to resist the pressure from Russia’s disinformation.
“In short, any tech platform giving space to Putin’s propaganda or complying with his censorship request is an accomplice to Putin’s aggression,” she said.
European Commission Vera Jourova said Putin wants his people to be “apathetic” and praised streaming platform Netflix’s decision to suspend its Russian services.
“Because president Putin wants the people to be entertained, not to pay attention to what is happening,” she said. “It would not be right to see Russians being entertained, and next door Ukrainians being killed.”
Both Borrell and Jourova expressed deep concerns about the imposed censorship in Russia that threatens independent journalists with jail terms and deprives citizens access to verified information about what their government is doing in Ukraine.
“It is more important than ever to reach the Russian people, and provide them with information,” Jourova said. “Every possible channel should be used.”