How Russia Polices Yandex, Its Most Popular Search Engine


This year, the “news aggregator law” came into effect in Russia. It requires websites that publish links to news stories with over one million daily users (Yandex.News has over six million daily users) to be responsible for all the content on their platform, which is an enormous responsibility.

“Our Yandex.News team has been actively working to retain a high quality service for our users following new regulations that impacted our service this past year,” Yandex told Motherboard in a statement, adding that to comply with new regulations, it reduced the number of sources that it aggregated from 7,000 to 1,000, which have “official media licenses.”

“For now, Google News has avoided Roskomnadzor’s restrictions because it is less popular,” The Moscow Times wrote in April soon after the law went into effect.

In the US, there’s no such law. Social media companies are protected from the legal consequences of users posting harmful material by laws like the Digital Millennium Copyright Act’s “safe harbor” provision and the First Amendment.

Aggregators in Russia can bypass the regulations of the news aggregator law by only sourcing their material from media outlets approved by the Roskomnadzor. In essence, Yandex has undergone a purge.

Many sites with state licenses are Kremlin-owned local newspapers that essentially publish the same stories in unison, tricking Yandex’s algorithm into thinking news outlets are overwhelmingly reporting a specific pro-Kremlin story. “When it wants to manipulate the news agenda, [the Kremlin] commands all these newspapers release one news article praising the mayor for his glorious achievements, for example,” Kovalev said.