A report by the Digital Forensics Research Lab (DFRLab) has accused Yandex of succumbing to Russia’s domestic regulations by suppressing Ukraine war information for its users in Russia.
The report noted that the search engine has promoted state media and narratives in its search results, de-ranked and removed contents critical of the Russian government on its platform.
Yandex is the most popular search engine in Russia.
“To operate as widely as it does in Russia, Yandex complies with these domestic regulations, impacting its approach to content moderation and use of algorithmic ranking. Yandex dropped unofficial sources, such as blogs and foreign media, from its aggregator and began to prioritize state-approved outlets. In other words, the law has created a chilling effect.
“Yandex consistently showed higher rankings of common Russian disinformation narratives, de-ranking of content and media indicating opposition to the war, and a complete lack of access to sites labelled as “restricted” by the Kremlin,” parts of the report read.
It further noted that global technology firms have grappled with how to mitigate disinformation and respond to requests from the Russian government to censor information on their platforms since the onset of Russia’s war on Ukraine.
It explained that long before the current war, the Russian government put in place a series of laws giving state censors, the legal mandate and technical capacity to curtail online information and discourse which enables the Vladimir Putin-led government to dictate which content is allowed on news websites.
The report added that since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the crackdown on freedom of expression in the country has accelerated with several legislations meant to halt critical coverage of the war, punish journalists and citizens speaking against it, and further insulate the Russian populace from accurate information.