Google and Russia: Maybe an Educational Joint Venture for AI?

August 12, 2019

DarkCyber noted Russia’s demand that Google not advertise on YouTube illegal events. The demand was reported by the real news outfit Thomson Reuters. You can read the story at this link. Russia experienced some protests over the weekend. Roscomnadzor, an information watchdog, concluded that YouTube was a vector for dissemination of information about the protests.

WWGD (What would Google do)?

Google does not want to lose traction in the Russian market. Yandex is an issue, and that service seems somewhat compliant.

What are the options?

Google could man up to Russia and refuse. Russia would then take steps to block access to YouTube. Even if those in Russia find a work around, traffic would probably decline. Reduced traffic means less revenue. Plus, irritating Russian regulators could have an impact of Google business, employees, and access to permits.

Google could roll over. Revenues would be preserved, but Google would face direct and indirect pressure to provide more data to Russian authorities. The compliant Google might find itself facing tough decision after tough decision as it tries to preserve revenue and deflect attempts to become a cat’s paw for Russian authorities.

Google could try to craft a China play. On the surface, Google could appear to play hardball. At the same time, the world’s largest search engine finds ways to wedge into a big market. In China, Google has played the education card. A China Google institute for artificial intelligence research has been funded, and it is publishing papers, doing research, and engaging in information sharing.

Which option will Google exercise in Russia?

DarkCyber is not much in the prediction business. But option 3 or “have your cake and it it too but in secret” may be a contender.

The problem for Google is that it operates like a country, and it is not too keen to have its power threatened. But Google does not have a leader like Mr. Putin, nor an army, nor a Roscomnadzor.

Worth watching because it may be difficult to block content that Russia decides is inappropriate. Russia would prefer to control YouTube content available in Russia directly. Google activity is likely to be undesirable. Will Google declare war on Russia, or will it channel Chamberlain?

Stephen E Arnold, August 12, 2019

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