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YouTube blocks Russian state-funded media channels globally

YouTube announced on Friday that it had begun blocking access globally to channels associated with Russian state-funded media, citing a policy barring content that denies, minimizes or trivializes well-documented violent events.

The video platform had previously blocked the channels, specifically those of Russia Today and Sputnik, across Europe.

YouTube announced the move in a Twitter post and said that while the change was effective immediately, “we expect our systems to take time to ramp up”.

The platform, which is owned by Google, said Russia’s invasion of Ukraine now fell under its violent events policy and violating material would be removed.

A YouTube spokesman, Farshad Shadloo, said the blocking of the Russian outlets was in line with that policy.

YouTube also said it was now removing content about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine that violates its policy on material that “minimizes or trivializes well-documented violent events”. The Kremlin refers to the invasion as a “special military operation” and not a war.

YouTube previously paused YouTube ads in Russia. Now, it is extending that to all the ways it makes money on the platform in Russia.

Russian state media have called restrictions placed on them by distributors, which include app stores and other social media services, unjustified censorship.

“The blocking by YouTube is nothing but a new turn of an atrocious attack on one of the fundamental principles of a democratic society – that is freedom of the press,” Sputnik said in a statement on Friday.

YouTube declined to specify which and how many channels had been blocked globally, or whether they ever would be restored.

Workers across Google had been urging YouTube to take additional punitive measures against Russian channels, accusing them of spreading false narratives about the Ukrainian leadership and civilian deaths during the war, according to three employees at the company.

The move comes as Russia has taken up an increasingly aggressive stance against US tech companies that have taken measures to curb Russian disinformation on their platforms.

Russia on Friday moved to block Instagram after its parent company, Meta, said it would allow calls for violence against Vladimir Putin and Russian soldiers involved in the invasion of Ukraine to appear on the social media platform in Ukraine. The Russian government blocked access to Facebook last week. The blocks further limit most Russians’ access to outside information on the war. The Guardian

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