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Sometimes it’s media. Sometimes it’s activists. But now it’s Russian government regulators that want articles scrubbed from the internet for being “disinformation.”
The Russian government has demanded that Google censor a news story that accuses the nation of artificially reducing the reported number of deaths from COVID-19. The news data, however, comes from government-run institutions and official records.
The nation’s media regulator, the Roskomnadzor, is trying to remove a news item from the MBKh Media website for being considered “disinformation”.
The news in question states that the Russian government is trying to reduce the actual COVID-19 death toll by attributing the deaths to other diseases. According to the report, the death toll should be at least 70% higher, which means that the actual death toll would be close to 5,000.
To block the news, the Roskomnadzor has turned to Google directly since MBKh Media has refused to delete the report. Veronika Kutsillo, MBKh Media’s chief editor, said this attempt to censor the news is related to political issues. For her, the article does not count as disinformation, so she ensures that there is no reason to delete it.
However, this Russian website is not the only one targeted by the Roskomnadzor, as the regulator is also investigating articles from The New York Times and The Financial Times.
In fact, the Financial Times is the original author of the accusations about the actual COVID-19 death toll in Russia, and what is published in MBKh Media is based on that report.
According to Maria Zakharova, the Russian Foreign Minister, both foreign news portals are misinforming the public, misrepresenting the official information presented by the Russian media.
Both the New York Times and the Financial Times have no plans to withdraw the articles as they were written from official reports from the Moscow’s Health Department.
Even Moscow’s Health Department “confirmed” that the reports are based on their data.
This highlights the dangers that are emerging with groups calling to censor content on the basis of being “misinformation”, whether it’s coming from tech giants, news media, or even government bodies who are wanting to be the ones to decide what misinformation is.
It seems the old way of publishing opposing information or disputing an original report is falling by the wayside and being replaced with a move to take down the “offending” content or at the least putting warnings all over it.