Russia threatens to block YouTube after removal of German channels from RT TV

MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russia on Wednesday threatened to block YouTube from Alphabet Inc. after the removal of German-language channels from Russian state-backed broadcaster RT, and said it was considering retaliation against German media.

YouTube said Tuesday that RT’s channels had violated its COVID-19 disinformation policy, a move the Russian Foreign Ministry called an “unprecedented information aggression.”

Russian communications regulator Roskomnadzor said he wrote to Google and called for the restrictions to be lifted. He said Russia may seek to partially or fully restrict access to YouTube if it does not comply.

Google declined to comment on Wednesday.

The Kremlin has said it may have to force YouTube to comply with Russian law, saying there may be zero tolerance for violations.

“Of course, there are signs that the laws of the Russian Federation have been broken, quite blatantly, as this of course involves censorship and obstruction of the dissemination of information by the media,” said Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov to the press.

The Foreign Ministry said Russian authorities had been approached with “a proposal to develop and take retaliatory measures against the YouTube hosting service and German media.”

Christian Mihr, executive director of Reporters Without Borders (RSF) Germany, said the threat of action against German journalists was “totally inappropriate”.

Moscow has increased pressure on foreign tech companies over the past year, fining social media companies for failing to remove content that Russia deems illegal and punitively slowing the speed of Twitter.

That pressure led Google and Apple to remove an anti-government tactical voting app from their stores on the first day of a parliamentary election earlier this month, critics from the Kremlin said.

Berlin has denied an allegation by the Russian Foreign Ministry that YouTube’s decision was taken with the clear and tacit support of German authorities and local media.

“This is a decision by YouTube, based on rules created by YouTube. It is not a measure (taken by) the German government or other official organizations,” German government spokesman Steffen Seibert said. to journalists.

(Reporting by Alexander Marrow and Gleb Stolyarov in Moscow; additional reporting by Alexander Ratz and Riham Alkousaa in Berlin; Editing by Andrew Osborn and Timothy Heritage)

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