Russian human rights groups call on YouTube and Google not to enable Kremlin censorship — Novaya Gazeta Europe
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Russian human rights groups call on YouTube and Google not to enable Kremlin censorship

Roskomsvoboda, a Russian nonprofit dedicated to fighting digital censorship, published an open letter from a group of human rights and media organisations on Tuesday that called on YouTube not to give into Kremlin attempts to censor content on the video sharing platform.

The letter, which was also addressed to YouTube’s parent company Google, gratefully acknowledged the YouTube’s continued provision of a platform for opposition content in Russia, and referenced the 1 billion rubles (€10.4 million) seized from the company’s Russian accounts in April 2022 for its refusal to comply with a government request to remove prohibited content.

However, the letter went on to raise concerns that YouTube appeared to be helping the Russian authorities “silence human rights and anti-war voices” and called on it to “assess all blocking orders and requests against international human rights standards and resist complying with those that restrict access to protected expression.”

On 20 May, YouTube threatened to block the channel of Russian independent human rights group OVD-Info at the request of Roskomnadzor, Russia’s media regulator. The site also blocked three videos offering Russians advice on how to evade military service. The videos were subsequently restored to the platform after a public outcry over the incident, but no longer appear in searches.

On 12 May 2023, the head of Russia’s Federal Bailiff Service told state-affiliated news agency Interfax that Google was Russia’s biggest debtor, owing 30 billion rubles (€312 million) in unpaid fines.

Google has repeatedly been fined by the Russian government for offences including the “promotion” of extremist content and “LGBT propaganda”. In spite of this, YouTube continues to be accessible in Russia without a VPN.

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