Russia on Wednesday threatened to block Alphabet Inc.’s YouTube after it took down the German-language channels of Russian state-backed broadcaster RT, and said it was considering retribution against German media.
YouTube said on Tuesday that RT’s channels violated its COVID-19 misinformation policy, a move by Russia’s foreign ministry it described as “unprecedented information aggression”.
Russian state communications regulator Roskomnadzor said it had written to Google and sought the lifting of the ban. It added that Russia could partially or completely restrict access to YouTube if it fails to comply.
Google declined to comment on Wednesday.
The Kremlin said it may have to force YouTube to comply with Russian law, adding that there may be zero tolerance for violations.
“There are certainly indications that the laws of the Russian Federation have been broken, quite frankly, because it involves censorship and obstruction of the dissemination of information by the media,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.
The foreign ministry said Russian officials were “contacted with a proposal to develop and retaliate 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 “completely unreasonable”.
Moscow has increased pressure on foreign tech firms over the past year, fined social media companies for failing to remove content that slows Twitter’s pace with what Russia calls illegal and punitive.
Kremlin critics said that pressure prompted Google and Apple to remove the anti-government tactical voting app from their stores on the first day of a parliamentary election earlier this month.
Berlin denied the Russian Foreign Ministry’s allegation that YouTube’s decision was taken with the clear and tacit support of German authorities and local media.
“This is a decision of YouTube based on the rules made by YouTube. It is not a measure taken by the German government or other official organisations,” German government spokesman Stefan Seibert told reporters.
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