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“Due to the war in Ukraine, Google pause ads with content that exploits, belittles or approves of the war”

A help page explains why the company will suspend Russian state media advertisements. The Portuguese version speaks of ‘current war’, while the Russian version mentions ’emergency situation’.

In the video help center, the post Restricted Products and Services repeats the warning: “Due to the war in Ukraine, we will pause ads with content that exploits, belittles or approves of the war”, reads in Portuguese and English. In the Russian version, the notice is again amended: “Due to the extraordinary circumstances in Ukraine, we are suspending ads with content that exploits, denies or justifies these extraordinary circumstances.”

A help page explains why the company is suspending advertisements from advertisers based in Russia. The Portuguese version speaks of ‘current war in Ukraine’, and the Russian version refers to ‘extraordinary circumstances’ and ’emergency’.

freelance translators working for Google received a new order: Russia’s war against Ukraine could no longer be called a “war” in Russian translations. With immediate effect, the word should be replaced by a vague reference to “extraordinary circumstances”.

The internal email, obtained by The Intercept , was sent by supervisors at a company that translates corporate text and application interfaces for Google and other customers.

The bosses communicated that, at Google’s request, any Russian translation work should use the term “extraordinary circumstances” instead of “war,” according to the email. Translators, however, should continue to use the term “war” in the rest of the world. According to the statement, the change in policy was intended to bring Google into line with the Russian censorship law , enacted shortly after the invasion of Ukraine.

Asked about the directive, Google spokesperson Alex Krasov told The Intercept that “while we pause Google ads and most of our business activities in Russia, we remain focused on the safety of our local employees.” “As has been widely reported, current laws restrict communications within Russia. This does not apply to our information services such as search and YouTube,” he explained.

According to a translator who spoke with The Intercept, the orders apply to all Google products translated into Russian, including Maps, Gmail, Adwords, company policies and user communications. The translator asked to remain anonymous to avoid reprisals from his employer.

The internal memo helps explain why some Google pages found by The Intercept, including one on advertising policies and video help, use euphemistic terms like “Ukraine emergency” in the Russian version and “Ukraine war” in the English and Portuguese versions. .

The censorship law, signed by Vladimir Putin on March 4, created severe punishments – up to 15 years in prison – for anyone who disseminates “false information” about the Russian army. The measure is believed to include any reference to the Russian attack as “war” or “invasion” because the Kremlin has already hardened against using those terms. The Russian government calls the war a “special military operation” – and its internet censorship board has already threatened to block websites that use terms like these.

Like several other US companies, Google declared support for Ukraine and opposition to the Russian invasion shortly after the attack began. And, like several other Silicon Valley giants, it also implemented new policies to stifle Kremlin propaganda. In a  March 1 post, the company ’s head of global relations, Kent Walker, wrote that “our teams are working around the clock to support the people of Ukraine with our products, defend against cybersecurity threats, and uncover information. reliable and high quality”.

Walker added that Google has “suspended most of its business activities in Russia,” including sales to Russian advertisers, advertising targeted to Russian viewers on YouTube, Google Cloud subscriptions in Russia, and “payment features for most of our services.” ”.

Western commentators generally welcomed the company’s efforts related to the invasion. But the email and translations in Google’s Help Center suggest that the company’s stance against Kremlin propaganda is to some extent outweighed by its interest in continuing its business in Russia.

In the English and Portuguese versions of a note to its advertising policies titled Policy Updates for Sensitive Events , dated February 27, 2022, Google explained that it was suspending online ads from Russian state media outlets because of the “current war of Ukraine”, considered a “sensitive event”. The Russian version, however, refers to “the emergency in Ukraine” rather than “war”.

freelance translators working for Google received a new order: Russia’s war against Ukraine could no longer be called a “war” in Russian translations. With immediate effect, the word should be replaced by a vague reference to “extraordinary circumstances”.

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