Russia warns YouTube to stop ‘anti-Russian’ ads

In Russia’s latest jab at foreign social media giants since it sparked a ground war in Europe by invading Ukraine late last month, the country’s internet censor has fired a warning shot on Google for what it describes as anti-Russian ‘information attacks’ which it claims are broadcast via YouTube – accusing the US tech giant of engaging in acts ‘of a terrorist nature’ by authorizing the use of advertisements on the video-sharing platform to threaten Russian citizens.

In one declaration Posted on its website today, Roskomnadzor claims YouTube ran targeted ads calling on people to turn off train connections between Russia and Belarus.

“The actions of the YouTube administration are terrorist in nature and threaten the life and health of Russian citizens,” the regulator wrote. [translated from Russian with machine translation].

“The spread of such calls clearly demonstrates the anti-Russian stance of the American company Google LLC,” he added.

The regulator also warned Google to stop showing “anti-Russian videos as soon as possible”.

His statement goes on to accuse US IT companies in general, and tech giants Google and Meta (owner of Facebook) in particular, of choosing a “path of confrontation” with Russia by launching a targeted campaign of ” attacks on information” which, according to her, are intended to “discredit the Russian armed forces, the media, public figures and the state as a whole”.

“Similar actions by Meta Platforms Inc. and Google LLC not only violate Russian law, but also contradict generally accepted standards of morality,” Roskomnadzor added.

YouTube could not immediately be reached for comment on Roskomnadzor’s warning.

The direct warning to Google from the state internet censor could be a precursor to Russia blocking access to YouTube.

In the last days, Facebook and instagram were both blocked by Roskomnadzor – as the Kremlin sought to tighten its grip on the digital information sphere alongside its war in Ukraine.

Facebook and Instagram were blocked after Meta said it was relaxing its hate speech policy to allow users in certain regions to post certain types of death threats aimed at Russia – which Meta’s president of global affairs, Nick Clegg, defended as a temporary change, he said it was designed to protect “people’s right to speech as an expression of self-defense”.

Over the past few weeks, Roskomnadzor has also put restrictions on Twitter.

But YouTube has escaped major censorship since the invasion of Ukraine, although the company itself has some limitations on its service in Russia, such as suspension of payment services for users (he took this action in the wake of Western sanctions against Russian banks).

In a signal that this may be about to change, a report in russian press today suggests a blockage is looming, citing sources close to Roskomnadzor who have told him that YouTube could be blocked as early as today or next week. RIA Novosti’s sources told him that a YouTube blockage is “very likely” by the end of next week.

In what could be another small indicator of the cyber war now raging between Russia and Ukraine, Roskomnadzor’s website was noticeably slow to load as we filed this report today. He also appears to have introduced a CAPTCHA request, suggesting that he may be trying to prevent and/or mitigate DDoS attacks.

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