On September 15, Russia’s Foreign Ministry accused Google of censorship for removing ministry videos from YouTube.
Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said Google “without any warning or explanation” blocked videos of the ministry’s “two latest press briefings.” A month earlier, Google took down several videos from the Russian U.K. Embassy’s YouTube channel, she said.
“These American companies,” Zakharova said, “are at the top of the digital Russophobes’ rating.” She continued:
“There are crude attempts to restrict the information work of foreign institutions, to deprive the global audience of reliable sources. Such a policy of American corporations violates all those principles – and these are freedom of speech, freedom of information dissemination.”
That is false.
Google did not answer Polygraph.info’s questions about why it removed the videos. The company’s policies, however, seek to limit disinformation and hate speech.
In March, Google blocked access to Russian state media globally across all its platforms, citing content that “minimizes or trivializes well-documented violent events.” Google’s video site, YouTube, has 1.7 billion weekly visitors.
What was potentially troubling in the two press briefings, on September 8 and August 30, that Zakharova said were excised? Though not on YouTube, the videos remain available on the Foreign Ministry’s website, so the content is there for review.
On September 8, Zakharova falsely framed Ukraine as the aggressor in the war and said President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s goal is “to kill as many Russian citizens as possible.”
In fact, Ukraine is defending itself against an invasion. Still, Zakharaova accused “the Kyiv regime” of “aggression” against Russia, “intentional escalation of the conflict,” “ruthless bombardment of civilian infrastructure and residential homes,” and “inflicting mass civilian casualties.”
On August 31, Zakharova repeated Russia’s widely debunked claims that the goal of its invasion of Ukraine was “denazification and demilitarization.” The “essence” of Ukraine, she said, is “Nazism, fascism, nationalism,” an “ideology of misanthropy” and “hatred to the level of wishing to eliminate people of one ethnicity.”
She also accused the Ukrainian military of “massive strikes on civilian targets” aimed at inflicting “maximum damage” and “even more victims and injured” among the civilian population.
Zakharova did not specify which videos Google removed from the Russian U.K. Embassy’s YouTube channel. However, on August 16, the embassy in London said 29 videos had been taken down that contained “clarifications of the aims and objectives of Russia’s special military operation in Ukraine.”
According to the embassy, YouTube cited content that “violates our Community Guidelines.”
On August 16, Russia’s TASS state news agency, citing Zakahrova, said all videos deleted by YouTube would be disseminated throughout Russian social media networks.
Google has been openly supportive of Ukraine.
On March 1, days after Russia invaded, the company’s Global Affairs president, Kent Walker, pledged educational, technological, and security aid for Ukraine.
To “reduce unreliable information,” Google initially blocked YouTube channels affiliated with the Russian state-owned media outlets RT and Sputnik across Europe. The company also said it was beefing up security measures and raising $25 million for refugees from the war.