In Russia’s newest swipe at foreign social media giants since it began a land war in Europe by invading Ukraine late last month, the nation’s Web censor has fired a warning shot at Google over what it explains as anti-Russian “information attacks” which it declares are being spread through YouTube — accusing the U.S. tech giant of being participated in acts “of a terrorist nature” by permitting ads on the video-sharing platform to be used to threaten Russian citizens.
In a statement posted on its site today, Roskomnadzor declares YouTube has been serving targeted advertisements that require people to disable railway links between Russia and Belarus.
“The actions of the YouTube administration are of a terrorist nature and threaten the life and health of Russian citizens,” the regulator wrote. “The spread of such appeals clearly demonstrates the anti-Russian position of the American company Google LLC,” it added. The regulator also cautioned Google to stop dispersing “anti-Russian videos as soon as possible”.
Its declaration goes on to implicate U.S. IT business in basic, and tech giants Google and Meta (Facebook’s owner) in particular, of picking a “path of confrontation” with Russia by introducing a targeted campaign of “information attacks” that it says are intended to “discredit the Russian Armed Forces, the media, public figures and the state as an whole”.
“Similar actions by Meta Platforms Inc. and Google LLC not only violate Russian law but also contradict generally accepted norms of morality,” Roskomnadzor added.
YouTube might not immediately be reached for remark on the warning from Roskomnadzor. The direct warning to Google from the state Web censor could be a precursor to Russia blocking access to YouTube.
In recent days, Facebook and Instagram have both been obstructed by Roskomnadzor — as the Kremlin has looked for to tighten its grip on the digital information sphere in parallel with its war in Ukraine.
Facebook and Instagram were blocked after Meta said it was relaxing its hate speech policy to enable users in certain areas to post kinds of death threats targeted at Russia — which Meta international affairs president, Nick Clegg, safeguarded as a temporary modification he said was designed to safeguard “people’s rights to speech as an expression of self-defense”.
In current weeks, Roskomnadzor has also put limitations on Twitter. YouTube has escaped any major censorship from the Ukraine intrusion, regardless of the business itself using some limitations to its service in Russia — such as suspending payment services for users (it took that action as an outcome of Western sanctions versus Russian banks).
In one signal that could be about to alter, a report in Russian press today hints a block is looming, citing sources close to Roskomnadzor who informed it YouTube could be obstructed as early as today or next week. RIA Novosti’s sources informed it a block of YouTube is “most likely” by the end of next week.
In what might be another little sign of the cyber war that’s now increasingly raving between Russia and Ukraine, Roskomnadzor’s site was noticeably slow to fill as we were filing this report today. It also appears to have presented a CAPTCHA demand — suggesting it may be attempting to mitigate and/or prevent DDoS attacks.