20:04 GMT +313 December 2017
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    Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt

    Google Executive Says New Algorithm Will Hide RT, Sputnik Articles

    © AFP 2017/ DANI POZO
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    Eric Schmidt, the executive chairman of Google's parent company, Alphabet, announced Saturday that the company will "engineer" algorithms that will make it harder for articles from Sputnik News and RT to appear on the Google News service.

    "We are working on detecting and de-ranking those kinds of sites — it's basically RT and Sputnik," Schmidt said during a question and answer session at the Halifax International Security Forum in Canada. "We are well of aware of it, and we are trying to engineer the systems to prevent [the content being delivered to wide audiences]. But we don't want to ban the sites — that's not how we operate."

    Schmidt's response came after a guest in the audience asked the 62-year-old executive whether Google facilitated "Russian propaganda." The comments were in relation to a larger discussion on the search engine's Google News services which offers viewers a range of articles on certain topics.

    Schmidt later noted that he was "very strongly not in favor of censorship," but that instead he had faith in "ranking" stories. He did not comment on whether engineering a computer program to hide information could be seen as amounting to censorship.

    Giving insight on the capabilities of the new algorithm, the official did indicate that it would be able to detect "repetitive, exploitative, false, and weaponized" information.

    In response to Schmidt's statement, Margarita Simonyan said, "Good to have Google on record as defying all logic and reason: facts aren't allowed if they come from RT, ‘because Russia' — even if we have Google on Congressional record saying they've found no manipulation of their platform or policy violations by RT."

    Speaking to Sputnik News, Robert Epstein, a research psychologist, called Google's interference "very dangerous."

    "Companies like Google and Facebook play both sides: they pretend to be objective but exercise enormous editorial control," he said. 

    Faced with having to close down its US-based offices and with its employees under threat of arrest, RT announced just a week ago that the news organization had registered under the Foreign Agents Registration Act. RT called the sudden deadline to register imposed by the US Justice Department "cannibalistic" and decried the requirement as a blow to free speech.

    Days after the RT announcement, the Daily Beast published a misleading story suggesting that Sputnik had done the same. This is not true; it was Reston Translator, LLC a broadcast company Sputnik Radio leases its airtime from, that had registered.

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