Russia threatened on Wednesday to block Alphabet’s YouTube after Russian state-backed broadcaster RT’s German-language channels were deleted and said it was considering retaliating against German media.
YouTube said on Tuesday that RT’s channels had breached its COVID-19 misinformation policy, a move Russia’s Foreign Ministry described as “unprecedented information aggression”.
Russian state communications regulator Roskomnadzor said it had written to Google and demanded that the restrictions be lifted. It said Russia could seek to partially or fully restrict access to YouTube if it failed to comply.
The Kremlin said it may have to force YouTube to comply with Russian law, saying there could be zero tolerance for breaches.
“Of course there are signs that the laws of the Russian Federation have been broken, broken quite blatantly because of course this involves censorship and obstructing the spread of information by the media,” Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told reporters.
The foreign ministry said Russian authorities had been approached with “a proposal to develop and take retaliatory measures against the YouTube hosting service and the German media.”
Christian Mihr, executive director at Reporters Without Borders (RSF) Germany, said the threat of action against German journalists was “completely inappropriate”.
Moscow has increased pressure on foreign tech firms in the past year, fining social media companies for failing to delete content Russia deems illegal and punitively slowing down the speed of Twitter.
That pressure led Google and Apple to remove an anti-government tactical voting app from their stores on the first day of a parliamentary election earlier this month, Kremlin critics said.
Berlin denied an allegation by the Russian foreign ministry that YouTube’s decision had been made with clear and tacit support from the German authorities and local media.
“It is a decision by YouTube, based on rules created by YouTube. It is not a measure (taken by) the German government or other official organisations,” German government spokesperson Steffen Seibert told reporters.