Pressure on Google for Russian propaganda channels on YouTube

Google, YouTube parent company, is under pressure to remove pro-Russian channels that spread propaganda on its platform amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

According to an article in the Independent, several social media activists in the US pointed out that YouTube continues to host Russian propaganda channels.

YouTube has a huge appeal in Russia and the platform continues to be widely used by critics of the Kremlin government, state-backed media, as well as pro-Russian propagandists.

Amid the war in Ukraine, officials in the U.S., the U.K. and the European Union are discussing further sanctions and other moves to target propaganda groups and people with a huge number of subscribers to the platform.

Such a sanction by the EU, for example, targets Vladimir Solovyov, a Russian television and radio journalist behind a YouTube channel with more than a million subscribers.

An EU report published on Wednesday (23/2) notes that Solovyov is “known for his extremely hostile attitude towards Ukraine and his support for the Russian government”, adding that he is responsible for “supporting actions or policies that undermine the territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence of Ukraine”.

A four-hour livestream published on its YouTube channel about Russian military attacks in Ukraine had more than 2.7 million views within the first nine hours, Bloomberg reported.

Several critics in the US pointed out on Twitter that YouTube not only allows pro-Russian propaganda to be hosted on its platform, but also that it also generates revenue from such channels with advertisements from American brands.

Media Matters, a media watchdog in the U.S., found in a small survey last year that at least 13 Accounts of the Russian government — identified by YouTube as “funded” by a government entity or a “public broadcast” — host ads on their channels.

As Bloomberg reports, YouTube has ad partnerships with companies and celebrities in Russia that have suffered some sanctions, according to Omelas, a company that specializes in geopolitical analysis. These ties don’t violate current laws, but show how deep Google’s commercial relationship is with groups close to Russia’s government, he told Bloomberg, co-founder of Omelas.


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