Yandex Dashboard, First Search Project, Launched By Alliance For Securing Democracy

The Alliance for Securing Democracy (ASD) created a dashboard that launched last week showing the type of information a Russian citizen inside the country or a Russian-language speaker outside Russia’s borders sees on the in an effort to better understand the type of news and information seen.

“We wanted to see, if you’re a Russian language speaker, what type of information you get when seeking news,” David Salvo, deputy director and Yandex project lead for ASD, told Search & Performance Marketing Daily on Monday. “The Russian state clearly has its own agenda, and because Russian media is largely controlled by the state, we wanted to get a better picture. And whether there was any room for nuance in the conversation.”  



ASD wanted to know whether western media resources have any hope of breaking through the “pro-Kremlin slant.”

The dashboard analyzes and tracks news headlines in Russia on Yandex. It also highlights Regional News Headlines to track and analyze by location with a focus on Moscow, Donetsk (Ukraine), the United States, Estonia, and Poland. And finally, it shows the Top Search Results, auditing Yandex search results for Russian-language search terms related to the war.

The analysis to date found about 40% of articles displayed in Yandex’s news aggregators between May 16 and June 2, were from Russian state-owned sources, with many other articles coming from pro-Kremlin outlets owned by oligarchs close to Putin.

  • Virtually no articles from international news outlets were found, with the exception of three articles from the Russian version of Forbes.
  • Search results on highly-charged topics are mixed. Results vary for the search query “Bucha,” the Ukrainian town where Russian forces committed atrocities.

Some days a user would find among the top three linked articles and blogposts in Russian debunking Kremlin propaganda that Ukrainian authorities committed the “atrocities.” Other days, articles and blogposts spouting the Kremlin’s position are featured prominently and any debunking would be further down in the search results. And then other days, it’s as if the war in Ukraine and the atrocities in Bucha never took place at all just Instagram accounts, dictionary entries, and the official website of Bucha, according to a post from ASD.

Salvo said that the ASD typically shares this information with academics, policymakers, State Department, and others to get a better picture of what they are up against. They are trying to think through their own diplomacy tools and tactics, he said.

“We will run the dashboard as long as we have the resources,” he said, but the plan is to run the news aggregation function gets updated once daily, and search queries twice daily during the summer.

The ASD has done this will other online accounts, but never a search engine. When asked if the ASD might do the same in China or Iran, Salvo said “we are just starting conversations on whether we want to replicate this with China, as well.”

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