NEW YORK—In response to reports that Google has begun deleting from its search engine websites banned inside Russia, PEN America issued the following statement:

“Simply put, Roskomnadzor is not an ally of free expression; they are a government censor,” said Polina Kovaleva, PEN America’s Eurasia Project Director. “It’s very troubling that Google, the world’s largest search engine, has conceded to these demands. At the very least, we need far more transparency regarding which sites Google has removed from its search results, as well as the internal evaluation and criteria that Google used for determining whether these sites should be taken down. Given the reports of Google’s possible Dragonfly project in China, these removals are a warning sign that Google may be prioritizing its business presence in Russia over its stated commitment to make the world’s information universally accessible.”


On Wednesday February 6, Russian paper Vedomosti (“The Journal,” in English) reported that Google had begun complying with Russian regulators’ demands that the company remove search results linking to sites that are banned within the country. Other Russian media outlets have confirmed that at least some of the websites that were available in Russian-language search results back in January have since disappeared.

The Russian governmental communication agency, Roskomnadzor, maintains a blacklist “ostensibly focusing on” sites that promote child pornography, drug use, and suicide. Press freedom and free expression advocates have long noted, however, that Roskomnadzor frequently blocks websites critical of the government, by claiming that such sites are “extremist” or otherwise prohibited.

It is not currently clear how many sites Google has scrubbed from its search results in order to comply with Russia’s list of banned websites, and Buzzfeed News has reported that Google has declined to respond on the record to Vedomosti’s claims.

Recently, Google has faced intense pressure over its Dragonfly project, a filtered version of its search results in China, which observers say is now unlikely to go forward although Google has not formally abandoned the project. Other online giants such as Netflix and Facebook also have been recently under scrutiny for censoring content in response to requests from regulators in countries with poor records on the issue of freedom of expression.


PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. We champion the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Our mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible.

CONTACT: Anoosh Gasparian, External Relations Manager: [email protected]