It’s a “404 Not Found” error: since Tuesday afternoon, the YouTube pages of RT Deutsch and Der Fehlende Part are inaccessible to its some 600,000 subscribers. This prompted the Kremlin to react on Wednesday, September 29 and denounce a “Censorship”.
YouTube, Google’s video site, has blocked RT Deutsch and Der Fehlende Part’s channels because they are accused of broadcasting ” fake news “ on the coronavirus. And because RT DE wanted, through its channel Der Fehlende Part, to bypass the ban on broadcasting new videos for a week after the restrictive measure against RT. For its part, RT believes that the initial suspension, which was to be lifted on Wednesday, was intended to handicap its functioning as the legislative elections in Germany approach on September 26.
“YouTube has always had clear guidelines for the community, which describe what is allowed on the platform”, explained YouTube in a statement, quoted by Süddeutsche Zeitung, recalling the sprains committed by RT DE.
For her part, Margarita Simonian, Russian state media editor Rossia Segodnia, RT and Sputnik, mentioned the “Media war declared by the German state to the Russian state”, reports the newspaper Novaya Gazeta. On Twitter, she called on the authorities of the Russian Federation to “Close the offices of ARD and ZDF” and to “Ban Deutsche Welle and other German media in Russia”.
Moscow threatens YouTube to retaliate
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov issued thinly veiled threats on Wednesday: “There are signs that Russian laws have been violated and that they have been grossly violated, it is linked to censorship and obstruction of the dissemination of information”, he said, advocating a “Zero tolerance for such violations”.
It is “An unprecedented act of information aggression on the part of YouTube”, had reacted the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation in a statement released on the night of Tuesday to Wednesday, accusing the German authorities of having “Obviously encouraged [cette décision], even insisted [pour qu’elle soit prise] “.
“The objective of this aggression against the projects of the Russian holding company is obvious: to silence the sources of information that do not fall within a comfortable media framework” for the authorities in Germany, assured the Russian diplomacy, which sees “The continuation of an information war against Russia”. In this context, “The taking of symmetrical retaliatory measures against the German media in Russia (…) seems not only appropriate, but also necessary ”.
❗️ Немецкоязычные проекты @RT_com подверглись акту информационной агрессии со стороны @YouтTube при проверглись…
The telecommunications authority Roskomnadzor announced that it had asked Google, the parent company of YouTube, “To lift as soon as possible the limits imposed on the YouTube channels RT DE and Der Fehlende Part”. “The legislation provides for a total or partial suspension of access if the owner of a platform does not carry out a warning from Roskomnadzor”, she says.
State control of social networks
For several months, Russia has been stepping up its offensives against major social networks and digital platforms, accusing them of being in the pay of Western interests. It forced Google and Apple to block, just before the Russian legislative elections of September 19, content related to the incarcerated opponent and bête noire of the Kremlin, Alexeï Navalny, an act that the interested party had described as “Complicity” with the censorship of Vladimir Putin. Sources within the companies confirmed they had caved in because their employees in Russia were at risk of arrest. Accused of failing to remove illegal content, Twitter has been slow in Russia since March, making uploading photos, videos and other GIFs very slow.
At the end of January, President Putin ruled that the major companies in the Internet sector were ” in competition “ with states. He denounced their “Attempts to brutally control society”. Since 2019, Russia has adopted a law for the development of a sovereign Internet. The authorities deny wanting to build a national network under control, as is the case in China, but this is exactly what non-governmental organizations and opponents fear. Social networks are, moreover, already obliged to store the data of their Russian users on the territory of Russia. Finally, the digital giants will soon have to open official representations that will be responsible for “Any infringement of Russian law”.
Fight against Russian influence
Westerners, for their part, believe that Russia is piloting disinformation or influence campaigns on social networks with the aim of sowing discord in their societies or for the purposes of electoral interference, as during the presidential election of 2016 in the United States.
For its part, RT, which also broadcasts in English, French and Spanish, is considered part of the Kremlin’s international propaganda efforts. In August, Luxembourg refused to grant a license to RT to allow it to broadcast in German from that country, authorities said.
RT applied for a satellite broadcasting license in Luxembourg in June, in order to circumvent German law prohibiting the granting of an audiovisual license to foreign state-owned media.