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Russians: If you can't beat 'em, rank 'em lower in search

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Generally, platforms strive to avoid making decisions that appear editorial in nature. Beyond enforci
 
November 21 · Issue #32 · View online
The Interface
Generally, platforms strive to avoid making decisions that appear editorial in nature. Beyond enforcing their Terms of Service, which typically allow for lots of discretion, the platforms seek to host the maximum amount of speech. 
Of course, the 2016 election turned all that upside down, which is why Eric Schmidt is now saying this about RT and Sputnik, two news outlets sponsored by the Russian government:
“We’re working on detecting this kind of scenario … and de-ranking those kinds of sites,” Schmidt said, in response to a question at an event in Halifax, Canada. “It’s basically RT and Sputnik. We’re well aware and we’re trying to engineer the systems to prevent it.”
Schmidt, of course, is Google’s executive chairman, and known for making candid and impolitic remarks about a range of subjects. The idea that YouTube would down-rank RT in search marks a fascinating new development, not least because — as we’ve talked about here — most of RT’s content is apolitical. 
The company posts lots of viral footage, most of it acquired elsewhere, and uses those views to grow its subscriber base. Then, when it wants to promote a divisive social issue in America — whether it’s a Black Lives Matter rally or a march in support of gun control — it can use that subscriber base to its advantage.
So how will YouTube thread that needle? Here’s how Schmidt put it:
“We don’t want to ban the sites. That’s not how we operate,” Schmidt said. “I am strongly not in favour of censorship. I am very strongly in favour of ranking. It’s what we do.
In practice, down-ranking RT and banning it have a similar effect. But the former allows YouTube to maintain its self-concept as a platform for free speech, while the latter feels uncomfortably … editorial.
In any case, the effects of all this seem quite unpredictable. Russia has threatened to respond aggressively to any such down-ranking, and Western media is likely to face new restrictions in reporting from Russia.
RT has 2.2 million subscribers on YouTube. How many of them will keep watching when their videos stop floating to the top of search results?

Democracy
China: Police ‘Big Data’ Systems Violate Privacy, Target Dissent
Twitter Has Turned Over Zero New Russian Troll Accounts to Congress
Facebook (Still) Letting Housing Advertisers Exclude Users by Race
One Of The Biggest Alternative Media Networks In Italy Is Spreading Anti-Immigrant News And Misinformation On Facebook
Enforcing Our Policies and Protecting People’s Data
Elsewhere
Tencent on Global Path as It Surpasses Facebook in Valuation
YouTube is Back on Amazon Echo Show
This Dad Got Kicked Off YouTube For Making Disturbing Videos Of His Daughters That Millions Of People Watched
Launches
Introducing High Resolution Photos in Messenger
Takes
How I Got My Attention Back
It’s time for online media to pivot from advertising
And finally
FCC announces vote to destroy net neutrality next month
Talk to me
Questions? Comments? Net neutrality talking points? casey@theverge.com 
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