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Russian media regulator claims Google spreading threats via YouTube

Google (Patrick Tehan/Bay Area News Group/TNS)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

Russia’s media regulator, Roskomnadzor, has demanded that Google stop the spread of videos on its YouTube platform that it says are
“threatening Russian citizens.”

Days after Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine on February 24, Roskomnadzor ordered media across the country to publish information about the war in Ukraine only if it is provided by official sources.

It also has forbidden describing Russia’s what several Western nations have called an “unjustified and unprovoked” attack on Ukraine as an invasion or a war, instead insisting it be called a “special military operation.”

In a statement placed on Telegram on March 18, Roskomnadzor claimed that U.S. IT-companies, namely Meta Platforms Inc., operator of Facebook, and Google LLC, which owns YouTube, “have taken a clearly expressed anti-Russian position.”

The statement did not say what actions would be taken if Google did not heed the warning.

Google did not immediately respond to the demand from Roskomnadzor.

For more than a year, Russia has been cracking down on opposition voices, forcing the closure of most media outlets and limiting freedom of information.

On March 4, Roskomnadzor blocked Facebook saying the world’s largest social-media platform was discriminating against Russian media and information resources such as RT, RIA Novosti, and Sputnik.

In a further tightening of the situation, President Vladimir Putin signed a law on March 5 that calls for lengthy prison terms for distributing “deliberately false information” about Russian military operations as the Kremlin seeks to control the narrative about its war in Ukraine.

The law envisages sentences of up to 10 years in prison for individuals convicted of an offense, while the penalty for the distribution of “deliberately false information” about the Russian Army that leads to “serious consequences” is 15 years in prison.

It also makes it illegal “to make calls against the use of Russian troops to protect the interests of Russia” or “for discrediting such use” with a possible penalty of up to three years in prison. The same provision applies to calls for sanctions against Russia.

Multiple websites of RFE/RL, BBC, and other independent media outlets have been blocked over what Russian regulators claim is erroneous reporting.

Some Russian journalists have left Russia after their companies had to stop or suspend operations following the criminalization of the coverage of the war in Ukraine.

Several have since started up their own streams on YouTube to cover and discuss the ongoing war.