Russia’s federal media regulator, Roskomnadzor, has formally asked Google to explain why its news aggregator Google News stopped carrying stories from the Federal News Agency (FAN), a Russian news outlet with reported former ties to the infamous Internet Research Agency.
In its letter to Google, Roskomnadzor says its regulatory role is “to safeguard the freedom of speech and challenge in every way any manifestation of censorship.” The regulators also point out that FAN is an officially registered mass media outlet in Russia.
In late October, Google News stopped indexing stories published by the Federal News Agency. Representatives from the media outlet have called Google’s decision “an act of political censorship that benefits the U.S. government and is designed to restrict the dissemination of information about the fight against international terrorism.” FAN has vowed to challenge Google’s move in antitrust court, and promised to take the matter to “other state agencies.”
The Federal News Agency presents itself as a leading news outlet on information about the war in Syria, reporting favorably on the actions of the Syrian government and Russian troops against terrorist forces.
FAN was created in 2014, and it was initially based in the same office in St. Petersburg as the infamous “troll factory,” which was allegedly founded by the catering magnate Evgeny Prigozhin. According to an investigative report published by the magazine RBC in March 2017, the troll factory is tied to a whole “media group” that includes half a dozen publications, where FAN is the most prominent. The total audience for the media network was estimated to be 11 million unique viewers a month.