Russia: Russia says it has no plans to block YouTube or isolate itself

Russia is not planning to block Alphabet Inc.’s YouTube, the digital development minister said Tuesday, acknowledging that such a move would likely hurt Russian users and should therefore be avoided.

Russia has blocked other foreign social media platforms, but despite months of fines and threats against YouTube for failing to remove content that Moscow considers illegal and restricting access to some Russian media, it could be a deadly blow to video-hosting services. .

With nearly 90 million monthly users in Russia, YouTube is extremely popular and plays an important role in the digital economy. Although Russia has internal versions of other social media, an effective YouTube alternative on that scale has not yet emerged.

“We are not planning to shut down YouTube,” Maksut Shadayev, communications and media minister, told an educational forum. “Above all, when we limit something, we should clearly understand that our users will not be harmed.”

Competition is the engine of progress and an extreme measure of blocking, he told a huge auditorium of mostly young Russians, with some bean bags scattered around the house.

Alphabet’s Google did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Tensions between Moscow and Big Tech escalated into a full-blown information war after Russia sent thousands of troops to Ukraine on February 24.

Russia restricted access to Facebook and Instagram, the Twitter and meta platforms, in early March. It says Russia’s special military operation in Ukraine in April promised to punish Google for shutting down global state-funded media on YouTube, accusing it of spreading fraud.

Meta was convicted of “extremist activity” in March, a ruling the company objected to, but Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Tuesday that he would not rule out a return to Instagram if the meta content and local offices complied with Russian law.

Global internet to stay
Shadayev also poured cold water on the suggestion that Russia might try to further isolate itself from the global Internet infrastructure, which it isolated during a test last summer.

“We don’t want to shut ourselves off from anyone,” Shadayev said. “On the contrary, we believe that Russia should be a part of the global network.”

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