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Russia Threatens to Block YouTube After Being Accused of Spreading Misleading News About COVID-19

Misbar's Editorial Team Misbar's Editorial Team
20th October 2021
Russia Threatens to Block YouTube After Being Accused of Spreading Misleading News About COVID-19
YouTube suspends Sky News Australia for a week during last August (Getty).

Russia has threatened it would block access to YouTube if the platform does not lift its ban on two Russian-affiliated German-speaking channels for breaching YouTube’s specific guidelines not to post any misleading news about COVID-19.

The Russian Federal Communications Agency is responsible for overseeing the press, and mass media have accused YouTube of censorship, demanding that the platform lift the ban it placed on the two channels and allow them to operate again.

This comes in light of YouTube’s expanded policy and guidelines regarding misleading information under which the platform included all types of vaccines proven to be effective – not just COVID-19 vaccines.

RT Deutsch did receive a warning from YouTube for violating its instructions on misleading information regarding the coronavirus (COVID-19) virus. The channel was blocked from posting on the platform for a week.

During this time, another channel was created under the name of Der Fehlende Part. The channel, once again, posted the content that breached the platform’s new guidelines. As a result, YouTube deleted both channels.

This step could have some negative implications, however. Internet service providers in Russia could restrict – or even shut – the flow of data to websites under the Russian government’s instructions.

Russia has used such methods in March 2021 to restrict access to Twitter following the Russian Federal Communications Agency’s statement that the American social networking service has failed to remove about 3,000 tweets it claimed contained prohibited content. The Agency also threatened in May 2021 that it would throttle (or slow down) YouTube’s streaming for failing to remove YouTube videos it claimed to contradict the law.

A spokesperson for the American platform said that YouTube has long had clear social guidelines as to the content allowed to be posted on the platform.

Last August, Sky News Australia’s YouTube channel was suspended for a week after posting video clips denying that COVID-19 exists and encouraging the use of unreliable treatment methods that could potentially be life-threatening. Such treatments include ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine.

YouTube’s deletion of the two Russian channels seems to have been prompted by Germany’s accusation that the channels presented manipulative reports on anti-lockdown protests and posted controversial content ahead of last week’s elections.

YouTube’s suspension of the channels was met by anger from the Russian government, which saw the move as part of cyber warfare instigated by Germany.

Margarita Simonyan, RT’s editor-in-chief and a close friend of Vladimir Putin, said that she is “very much looking forward” to Moscow “banning Deutsche Welle (DW) and other German media” outlets in Russia.

Translated by: Ahmed N. A. Almassri

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