Russian regulators threaten YouTube with fines for ‘information war’
The Washington Post March 30, 2022
Russia’s telecom regulator said it would fine Google for not removing certain videos from its YouTube video service, stepping up its threats against YouTube, the last major U.S. social media network still active in the country.
Roskomnadzor, Russia’s official digital censor, said YouTube is “one of the key platforms participating in the information war against Russia” and accused it of harboring videos from far-right Ukrainian groups Right Sector and the Azov Battalion. Searches on YouTube for the two groups primarily showed news videos about the groups and the war.
YouTube is hugely popular in Russia and has been a key way for millions of Russians to consume news and entertainment videos for years. It has more users in the country than any other social network, including Russia’s homegrown Facebook competitor, VK. Since Russia’s Feb. 24 invasion, the country has blocked other U.S.-owned social media networks such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, leaving YouTube as one of the few ways for Russians to see content from outside the country without having to download special software to trick their Internet providers into believing they are not inside Russia.
A Google spokesperson did not return a request for comment.
Roskomnadzor has sent a steady stream of warnings to YouTube over the past two weeks, mostly complaining about how the company had blocked Russian state media channels around the world. Tuesday’s message, which was posted on the regulator’s Telegram channel, is a more concrete action, threatening a financial penalty.
The fines come under a 2020 law that already has been used to target tech companies. Before the war, Russia had already fined Facebook, TikTok, Twitter, Telegram and Google a total of $120 million under the statute.