Russia has fined Google millions for failing to remove YouTube videos dealing with the war in Ukraine from the Russian platform. The fine now imposed can be understood as part of a longer dispute between Russia and Google.
Intervention against war coverage
The competent Russian authority Roskomnadzor officially announced that it had imposed the fine on Google because the company had not deleted videos that spread “extremism and terrorism.” There was also talk of Google spreading misinformation about the war in Ukraine, as well as calls to participate in unauthorized mass actions. This probably refers to protest actions against the Russian war of aggression.
With the imposition of the fine of around 364 million US dollars, the Russian regulatory authority is continuing its course against Western reporting and freely available opinion and information offerings. Tough penalties had already been imposed on Google in the past because the U.S. company refuses to delete content that contradicts the Russian view of the war in Ukraine. In March of this year, for example, Google’s news division in Russia was blocked by Roskomnadzor. The justification explicitly stated that Google had referred to numerous publications that disseminated inadmissible information about the course of the war. It should be noted in this context that even the designation of the war as a war is prohibited in Russia and is accordingly considered inadmissible in this sense.
Although the described course has clearly intensified with the war in Ukraine, it began even before. For example, as early as November of last year, a Russian court ordered Google to pay a fine because content classified as illegal had not been deleted. Facebook, Twitter and TikTok have also come under increased scrutiny by Russian regulators since early 2021, who have sought to force the companies to block disagreeable posts.
Western platforms disappear
YouTube can be considered a special case here in that the platform is one of the few Western ones still available in Russia. Facebook and Instagram have been completely blocked since March, and Twitter is no longer accessible to the majority of people in Russia. In doing so, the Russian state had again wanted to sanction the unwillingness to delete posts that did not fit into its propaganda. In addition to social media, numerous journalistic platforms were also blocked, including the website of the newspaper Die WELT. Some services such as Netflix and TikTok, on the other hand, have voluntarily ceased operations in Russia.
In mid-May, it was surprisingly announced that it would not block YouTube in the country. At the same time, reference was made to not planning to disconnect the Russian Internet from the rest of the world – in other words, not wanting to implement a Chinese censorship model. The reasons for these statements and for YouTube’s special treatment are not yet known. The credibility of the announcement that there are no plans to isolate the Russian Internet cannot be verified either.