In another consequence of Russia’s draconian anti-LGBT laws, Internet users in the country are no longer able to find popular Russian-language news portal Gay.ru through Google.
Usually, doing a search for “gay” on Google will display Gay.ru as a result; however, the enforcement of Russia’s “gay propaganda” laws, which in effect forbids even acknowledging that homosexuality exists, has resulted in its apparent removal from the search engine for Russian users.
The staff of Gay.ru realized they were seeing probable censorship not from the government, but Google itself when they saw that Yahoo, Bing, and even Russia’s own search engine Yandex returned Gay.ru within its first few results when searching for the word “gay,” but Google wouldn’t provide any links at all.
The owner of the site, Ed Mishin, contacted Google to complain about their apparent censorship, without much success; the company has been unwilling to respond much by email, and the only reply he’s gotten back was in regards to “a complaint about ‘content.’”
In an interview with Gay Star News, he said, “Gay.ru is very neutral, we don’t have any sexual content. When we asked them what kind of content they meant, we didn’t really receive any other response.”
The anti-propaganda law, reportedly enacted to “protect children,” specifically bans providing any information whatsoever regarding homosexuality or the LGBT community to minors. When the law was passed, Gay.ru added a note to the website stating that it is intended for adults in an attempt to remain in compliance with the law.
Mishin told Gay Star News, “We are very vulnerable because of this. When some deputy decides [all LGBT-related content]is propaganda. In the law, it says you cannot show a homosexual way of life in a positive way.
“Definitely, our website is full of stories of positive living as a homosexual and that is why we’re against the law.”
According to Mishin, Google’s Russian branch has told him that they are not going to be as “tolerant” as Google is in the rest of the world; he expects that Gay.ru will eventually be forcibly shut down: “now they can do this without going to court, they have another law that allows them to shut down the website just because they want to.”
In China, Google.cn was originally subject to censorship by the country’s government when the site launched in 2006; in 2009, Chinese users were blocked from accessing YouTube, owned by Google, due to a video of Tibetans being beaten by Chinese authorities. After a cyber attack traced from China hit Google and other US-based technology companies in 2010, Google announced that it would no longer operate a censored version of its search engine; on the company’s official blog, they stated, “We have decided we are no longer willing to continue censoring our results on Google.cn, and so… we will be discussing with the Chinese government the basis on which we could operate an unfiltered search engine within the law, if at all. We recognize that this may well mean having to shut down Google.cn, and potentially our offices in China.”
As for Russia? Mishin said that he hopes LGBT Russians will act: “This news about Google is the first step to tell the community that maybe tomorrow will be too late.”