Russia threatens to block YouTube after it suspended a state news channel over COVID misinformation

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Russia and Google have never been best friends, but things are about to get much worse if the two parties can’t find an agreement in the latest dispute. After YouTube deleted the Germany-based branch of Russia’s state television network Russia Today (RT) over COVID-19 misinformation, Russia has threatened to fully block the video streaming service in the country if it doesn’t re-instate RT Germany. The country has additionally threatened Germany it would block German media, suspecting the government behind YouTube’s decision to ban RT Germany.

As reported by Deutsche Welle, YouTube initially only struck RT with a one-week timeout because it violated the platforms COVID-19 misinformation guidelines. RT then used its second channel, “Der Fehlende Part” (“The missing part”) to continue uploading content meant for its primary channel, effectively evading the ban. According to a spokesperson, Russia Today effectively “tried to circumvent the enforcement by using another channel, and as a result both channels were terminated for breaking YouTube Terms of Service.”

Right away, the Russian agency responsible for overseeing mass media, Roskomnadzor, demanded Google to remove all restrictions, threatening to either fine the company or block Google’s video platform in the country altogether.

In reaction to the ban, RT editor-in-chief, Margarita Simonyan, went as far as saying ” This is a real media war declared by the state of Germany to the state of Russia” on Twitter, accusing the German government of influencing decisions made against RT.

She further called Russian regulators to ban German state media in Russia in return. And it looks like the government is listening. According to a statement given to RadioFreeEurope (via Washington Post), the Russian Foreign Ministry said,

Considering the nature of the incident, which is fully in line with the logic of the information warfare unleashed against Russia, taking retaliatory symmetrical measures against the German media in Russia would seem not just an appropriate, but also a necessary thing to do.

We can only hope that the three parties involved can find a solution, but it could be difficult. The German government denies any involvement in YouTube’s decision, and YouTube stands by enforcing its rules — at least for the moment. In the end, the general Russian population might end up being the uninvolved third party to suffer the consequences, as it stands to lose access to one of the biggest entertainment platforms in the world.

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