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Google pauses all ad sales in Russia ‘in light of the extraordinary circumstances’

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Online advertising has become part of the information war

Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

Google has paused all ad sales in Russia in response to the ongoing crisis in Ukraine.

“In light of the extraordinary circumstances, we’re pausing Google ads in Russia,” a Google spokesperson told The Verge. “The situation is evolving quickly, and we will continue to share updates when appropriate.”

It’s difficult to say what financial losses the company will incur as a result, but the move shows how the online world has become a subsidiary battleground between Russia and the West following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The pause by Google follows similar blanket bans on ads in Russia enacted by Twitter and Snapchat. Google also previously blocked Russian state media like Russia Today from monetizing their websites and YouTube channels using the company’s adtech. Small bans and blocks like this have been accumulating over the past week, and are slowly forming something of a digital iron curtain between Russia and the West.

Regarding this latest news, a Google spokesperson told The Verge: “In light of the extraordinary circumstances, we’re pausing Google ads in Russia. The situation is evolving quickly, and we will continue to share updates when appropriate.”

The move comes after Google itself was criticized by Russian communications watchdog Roskomnadzor for running ads about the war in Ukraine. As reported by The Wall Street Journal, Roskomnadzor said ads on Google’s platforms were targeting Russian viewers and “aimed at creating a distorted perception of current events.” Roskomnadzor said the ads spread “false political information” and could incite protest.

The communications watchdog has been actively blocking any media that contradicts the official state narrative. It recently blocked access to BBC News websites, for example, after the UK broadcaster resurrected WWII-era shortwave radio bulletins in order to reach listeners in Russia and Ukraine.