The Kremlin on Wednesday slammed YouTube for unwarranted "censorship" and "media obstruction" after the day prior the Google-owned video hosting platform suddenly blocked two German RT channels, including RT Deutsch which was competing for traffic with major German news and politics channels. YouTube said the Russian state media channels had breached its Covid 'disinformation' policies.
At the time it was blocked RT Deutsch had over 600,000 subscribers and was approaching 600 million total views, according to Russian media reports. "Of course, there are signs that Russian laws have been violated, violated very rudely, as this, of course, is associated with censorship, and with obstruction of the media information dissemination," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.
"If our supervisory authorities come to the conclusion that this is, indeed, a violation of our legislation, then, of course, we cannot, we should not exclude the possibility of taking measures to force this platform to comply with our laws," he added.
A separate Foreign Ministry statement called it "outright information aggression" - and RT's editor-in-chief Margarita Simonyan called the ban a "real media war declared by the state of Germany to the state of Russia" in a social media post.
However, the German government was quick to distance itself from Facebook's ban, saying it didn't have anything to do with the order. "They were not implemented by the German government," a German official said.
"This is a YouTube's decision against RT and, I believe, one more channel, which is based on YouTube rules. We are taking note of this. Obviously, the affected channels have opportunities to oppose this," cabinet spokesman Steffen Seibert told reporters at a briefing.
'A declaration of media war against Russia by Germany,' claims RT editor-in-chief after YouTube deletes popular RT DE channels — RT Russia & Former Soviet Union https://t.co/Tc273VbUft— George Galloway (@georgegalloway) September 28, 2021
Moscow was quick to hit back at parent company Google, according to Politico threatening to block the platform altogether from the Russian Federation:
Russian authorities threatened to block YouTube on Wednesday, a day after RT's German-language channels were deleted with Google's video platform saying the Russian state-backed broadcaster had breached its COVID-19 information policy.
This morning, Roskomnadzor, the Russian government’s media watchdog, threatened to block YouTube in Russia if it didn’t restore the banned channels, RBC news reported.
It's not the first time that such a threat has been made, which also recently included Twitter. The Kremlin has in the past charged US-based social media platforms with violating obscenity laws. More recently Russian officials have denounced 'political interference' based on the platforms advancing pro-Navalny groups and other opposition content.
On Wednesday, a Russian court moved to take concrete action against Google for the Germany ban, slapping it with a 6.5mn rouble fine for not deleting "prohibited content." Given the fine is not at all an immense one, it's being seen as largely a symbolic act portending more punitive action to come.