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Russian senators say political interference should make Google and Facebook ‘shiver in their spines’

Источник: Meduza
Yuri Kochetkov / EPA / Scanpix / LETA

On September 12, 2019, the Russian Federation Council's Commission on Protecting State Sovereignty and Preventing Foreign Interference met for the first time since nationwide local elections on September 8. As usual, the senators warned that anti-Kremlin opposition leaders and U.S. media companies pose an existential threat to Russia. A rough summary of the most colorful remarks during the 80-minute meeting follows.

Anyone caught meddling in our elections must be punished — both the people responsible for this interference and the services that make their actions possible. “Even a single word distributed over Google or Facebook doesn’t compare to the information shared on smaller platforms, by other means, like local newspapers.” Alexey Navalny spent all of election day inciting people not to vote for United Russia. In the future, we’ll make sure nobody even thinks of doing something like this. “The culprits need to feel their responsibility in their spinal cords.” During the elections, the “Golos” monitoring group passed off old violations as new offenses. As always, the Western media covered our elections with bias and manipulation, trying to dismiss the vote as illegitimate, and reported on supposedly politically motivated criminal cases against dissidents. The Attorney General’s Office prepared for election day, identifying undesirable organizations, and blocking all their websites. Back in 2017, with the Magnitsky Act, the U.S. planned to meddle in our elections. “When we met yesterday in the Civil Chamber, going over foreigners’ systematic efforts to influence Russia’s election campaigns, it was nothing but foreign words: ‘abusing,’ ‘trolling,’ ‘bullying,’ and even ‘gaslighting.’” Things are so bad on Google that anodyne searches on election day returned consistently questionable results. Facebook, meanwhile, refused to work with the Moscow Election Commission to disavow fake reports about voter fraud. And what should we expect, when Twitter is fined a measly 3,000 rubles ($46) for regulatory noncompliance?! We need to force Google and Facebook to work like in China. [Note: Google and Facebook are widely blocked in China.] “Or our little gray zone is going to end up with what we’re seeing in Hong Kong.” We need to come up with laws and decide who will catch this kind of propaganda in advertising. We’ve already done the groundwork here, which we’ll discuss in our closed session, without journalists present. “Yes, they’re meddling; yes, they’re interfering; and yes it’s from all sides. But the effectiveness is minimal — not because of flaws in their actions or too little money, but because we’re on the job, too.”

Summary by Mikhail Zelensky

Translation by Kevin Rothrock