Google search is a window to the Internet for millions of Ukrainians, and for some of them it is perceived as the Internet itself. Therefore, without exaggeration, we can say that Google search is a strategic resource that is the basis for obtaining information to Ukrainians. However, very often this information is provided in Russian, or in general from Russian-language sources, sometimes even propaganda sources.
This is a very huge and long-standing problem, which consists in the fact that Google classifies Ukraine as a Russian-speaking country and, trying to provide as many relevant results as possible, mixes search results in two languages, despite all search settings and Ukrainian selection. It is convenient for users who understand two languages, but there are more Russian speakers, more content in Russian, and this has always caused extremely negative consequences for the Ukrainian-speaking Internet.
This is despite the fact that Google often does not understand in which language the search request is made, because, for example, there are the same words in Ukrainian, Bulgarian and Russian, that is, it links the result to the user’s location, which is determined by IP address or mobile operator and GPS coordinates of the smartphone.
Like any other publisher, we know very well that it is more difficult to distribute content in Ukrainian due to Google, because you are not just competing with Ukrainian media, you are also competing with Russian ones. For example, let’s take the search query “iPhone 14”, which will be very relevant soon. With my search settings in the first screen, three of the four main news are shown in Russian, two of them are Russian websites.
Despite the fact that in all Google search settings I deleted Russian and selected Ukrainian, this does not affect the results in any way.
The same request in incognito mode turns out to be different, with two out of four news in Russian with one Russian source. It’s nice that the news from Mezha.Media was shown. I still don’t understand how Google’s Top News works, it seems that neither does the company. Maybe the story about artificial intelligence was not a fantasy of a Google engineer, who knows.
But let’s not get distracted. We recently wrote that the Russian Wikipedia is losing 17 million views per month in Ukraine, while the Ukrainian audience, on the contrary, is growing rapidly. The news is very good if we do not go into details, because the Russian Wikipedia in Ukraine received 95 million views in July 2022, and the Ukrainian one – 50 million. Many people in the comments to the news guessed why, Google search often puts the Russian Wikipedia higher than the Ukrainian one, and people simply click on the result that is higher in the output, because logically it should be more relevant.
Only one example with the query iPhone 14 is not very illustrative, but if you enter it, then Google does not show the Ukrainian article on Wikipedia on the first pages at all, although such an article exists.
If we specify the query, we have a result where the Russian Wikipedia is higher again.
Maybe “iPhone 14” is not the best query, but if you enter the usual word “tea” in Google search, the results will be no less surprising. In the Main News block, two out of three news are in Russian.
One of them is generally on the openly propagandistic resource Life. If to enter his name in the search, Google itself will tell you thanks to the Ukrainian Wikipedia.
It is better not to go to the “News” section itself when asking for “tea” at all, there is “Ivan-tea” and the like. Very “relevant” content for our country.
I know that Google is making a lot of efforts so that Ukrainians do not see Russian propaganda in their search, but the Ukrainian Internet, and therefore the Ukrainian Google, need fundamental changes that do not require superpowers. The corporation simply needs to change its policy regarding Ukrainian search.
Today, Ukrainians make extraordinary efforts and suffer heavy losses, fighting for their right to exist, defending their own state and their own culture. Many Ukrainians refuse Russian, so I call on Google to prioritize the Ukrainian language in search and to refuse to display Russian resources in the news for Ukraine.