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YouTube blocks anti-war videos on the request of Russian government

YouTube has blocked videos demonstrating how to evade military service following a request from Russian authorities, the investigative news outlet Agentstvo reported on Monday.

Russia’s state media watchdog, Roskomnadzor, notified YouTube between December and February that these videos violated Russia’s law on information technology and information protection.

This was indicated by screenshots of the YouTube legal support team’s blocking notices.

YouTube also warned the human rights watchdog OVD-Info that one of its channels might be blocked after a recent complaint from Roskomnadzor. According to an email forwarded to OVD-Info on May 6, Roskomnadzor restricted access to the channel “Kak Teper?” (“What Now?”).

The channel could be restored if unspecified violations were resolved.

“This is the first case in Russia where Roskomnadzor is demanding to block an entire channel rather than a specific video,” OVD-Info spokesman Dmitry Anisimov told Agentstvo.

“We’re currently in contact with Google, attempting to explain that this demand to block our channel is illegal and constitutes politically motivated censorship,” he added.

Removing content related to human rights at the behest of the Russian government, rather than for violations of Google’s content policies, represents a “new trend,” Agentstvo reported, citing an unnamed cybersecurity expert.

Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in early 2022, YouTube has deleted channels of many pro-Kremlin media organizations, prompting accusations of censorship from the Kremlin.

While Russia has banned platforms like Facebook, X (formerly Twitter), and Instagram, along with many independent media outlets, it has so far refrained from banning YouTube.

Before the invasion of Ukraine, Russia had threatened to punish Google and other Western tech companies if they failed to delete banned content, including posts supporting the late opposition figure Alexei Navalny.

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I am an experienced writer, analyst, and author. My exposure in English journalism spans more than 28 years. In the past, I have been working with daily The Muslim (Lahore Bureau), daily Business Recorder (Lahore/Islamabad Bureaus), Daily Times, Islamabad, daily The Nation (Lahore and Karachi). With daily The Nation, I have served as Resident Editor, Karachi. Since 2009, I have been working as a Freelance Writer/Editor for American organizations.

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