YouTube takes sides and removes 70,000 alternative videos on the Ukrainian war


YouTube, Google’s video platform, is getting stricter in its censorship of content related to the Ukrainian war. A foreman justifies this by saying that most of the removed videos come from channels “affiliated with the Russian government”.

Russia must have a lot of channels “affiliated” with its government because the platform has removed more than 70,000 videos and deleted 9,000 channels related to the Ukrainian war, according to the British newspaper The Guardian (*).

One of the reasons is to call the invasion of Ukraine a “liberation mission”. As is often the case, more interesting than mass censorship are the pretexts under which the inquisitors dress themselves.

Violence” is one such pretext. Youtube is against a “violence” that cannot be denied (unless you are a denialist). It’s something that “applies to everything,” said Neal Mohan, YouTube’s head of product.

Another pretext is that only “accurate, high-quality, credible information” is disseminated, Mohan added. It so happens that the most reliable and best channels are those that criticise Russia’s military action.

The others, the ones that have been sent to the dustbin, repeat “Kremlin rhetoric”. These are narratives coming from the Russian government or from Russian actors on behalf of the Russian government. Despite this, Mohan claims that YouTube “is a place where Russian citizens can get uncensored information about the war”.

Uncensored? In recent months YouTube has temporarily suspended accounts associated with the Russian foreign and defence ministries for describing the war as a “liberation mission”. YouTube also banned Russia Today and Sputnik, the two main broadcasters of the Kremlin’s international discourse, in March.

What YouTube is saying is that it has taken sides: censorship is not directed against Russia, nor against Russians, but only against the government. If any Russians introduce content opposed to their government, they are welcome to do so.

The right to information has two parts: one, active, is the right to inform, the other, passive, is the right to be informed. YouTube has eliminated both. Almost 90 million Russians use Google’s platform. So there are 90 million Russians who cannot know their own government’s opinion on the Ukrainian war.

Last week, Russia’s digital development minister, Maksut Shadaev, said his government would not block YouTube, despite disputes over content that have led to the platform being fined by the courts for failing to remove banned videos.

As a partisan platform, whenever there is a critical event in the world, YouTube pulls out the scissors. During the pandemic, it removed more than 130,000 videos about vaccines.

The same thing happens in the United States. Content is unreliable because it comes from the United States. Trump’s channel was temporarily banned after the invasion of the Capitol at the end of his term. YouTube users have no right to know Trump’s opinion; only that of his opponents.

(*) https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2022/may/22/youtube-ukraine-invasion-russia-video-removals

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