Google hardware products are displayed during a launch event in San Francisco, California, U.S. October 4, 2017. (REUTERS PHOTO)
MOSCOW, Nov. 23 (Xinhua) -- Google's intention to "de-rank" Russian media outlets RT and Sputnik is equal to censorship, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said Thursday.
It is a violation of freedom of speech and censorship at the technological level, she told a weekly news briefing.
Eric Schmidt, the Executive Chairman of Google's parent company Alphabet, said last week that RT and Sputnik could be de-ranked on the popular Google News service, which ranks various media outlets depending on their reach, article length and veracity.
Washington accused Russian media outlets of influencing public opinion during the 2016 presidential election by spreading fake news. But Moscow said the U.S. government is trying to oppress Russian journalists.
The practice of hampering distribution of information by artificially selecting news is "categorically inadmissible," Zakharova said.
She said the Russian Foreign Ministry has information that Google made this decision under "serious political pressure."
Earlier this month, RT America, the Washington, D.C.-based arm of Russia's state-owned English language news channel RT, was forced to register as a foreign agent in the United States at the demand of the U.S. Department of Justice under the Foreign Agents Registration Act enacted in 1938.
In response, the Russian parliament has passed a bill granting the government the right to label foreign media outlets as "foreign agents."
The bill, which has yet to be signed into law by Russian President Vladimir Putin, is likely to result in restrictions on some of U.S. government-sponsored media in Russia.