June 14, 2018  |  Updated September 24, 2018

From Nord Stream to Novichok: Kremlin Propaganda on Google’s Front Page

By Bradley Hanlon

On May 24, an international team of investigators from the Netherlands, Australia, Malaysia, and Ukraine announced that a Russian anti-aircraft missile was directly responsible for the downing of Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 (MH17). The following day, Australia and the Netherlands officially declared that they held the Russian government responsible for the downing. Concurrently, Bellingcat, McClatchy DC Bureau, and the Insider released a joint report revealing a Russian military intelligence commander as a key person of interest in the investigation. Initial analysis of social media reactions to these announcements indicated that Kremlin outlets were struggling to effectively counter the new evidence implicating Moscow in the downing of MG17. However, over the next week, conspiracy theories and disinformation narratives from Russian propaganda outlets found a foothold on an impactful and unlikely medium: Google’s front page.

In the weeks following the new announcements surrounding the MH17 investigation, articles from Russian state-controlled news outlets RT, TASS, and Sputnik regularly appeared on the front page of English-language Google searches for “MH17” through the site’s Top Stories function.

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