It was last week that YouTube stopped Russia’s military from posting videos on the site for seven days because the ministry called its invasion of Ukraine a “liberation mission” in two videos, which the company took down. According to the document, the decision to remove the videos was passed on to YouTube’s top executives.
“Our policies do not allow content that denies, minimizes, or trivializes well-documented violent events, such as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine,” the company said in an email.
Google hasn’t shut down its office in Russia, but the company has been quietly moving its employees out of the country over the last few weeks, people who know the decisions say. A Google spokesperson refused to say anything.
Russia’s President Vladimir Putin has censored the independent press in Ukraine in order to control information about the war, punishing people who don’t agree with the government. As far as we know, he’s also been after social media companies in the United States. The Russian government banned Facebook and Instagram on Monday and called them “extremist” organizations, which means they are now illegal. Twitter’s app has also been slowed down by the country.
Putin has tried to make American social media look like dangerous groups that are trying to change Russia’s way of life. It was the government’s first threat against YouTube since the invasion that was about a channel that ran old Soviet propaganda.
He said that “optics are very important,” a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council Digital Forensic Research Lab told me. If Instagram and YouTube are banned, people don’t like them very much unless they’re shown in a certain way.
Google stopped advertising in Russia in early March, and it says it is following all sanctions rules. Even so, the company kept many important parts of its business there “to give people access to global information and perspectives.” Google’s chief legal officer wrote a blog post about this.