More than 70,000 videos and 9,000 channels related to the war in Ukraine have been taken down by YouTube because of the fact that it has not been shut down despite hosting content from opposition figures such as Alexei Navalny. YouTube has also been able to operate in Russia despite cracking down on pro-Kremlin content that has broken guidelines, including its major violent events policy, which prohibits denying or trivialising the invasion.
Since the conflict began in February, YouTube has taken down channels including that of the pro-Kremlin journalist Vladimir Solovyov. Channels associated with Russia's Ministry of Defence and Foreign Affairs have been temporarily suspended from uploading videos in recent months for describing the war as a liberation mission. Neal Mohan said: We have a major violent events policy and that applies to everything from the Holocaust to Sandy Hook. What is happening in Ukraine, and it is a major violent event. We used that policy to take unprecedented action. He said that the first and most important responsibility is to make sure that people who are looking for information about this event can get accurate, high-quality, credible information on YouTube. The consumption of authoritative channels on our platform has grown significantly, in Ukraine, but also in countries surrounding Ukraine, Poland, and also within Russia itself. Mohan said that most of the taken-down content and channels were depicted by the Kremlin narratives about the invasion, although YouTube did not provide a breakdown of the taken-down content and channels. He said that they don't have the specific numbers, but you can imagine a lot of it being the narratives that are coming from Russian government or Russian actors on behalf of the Russian government.
There are 90 million users on the Russian platform, although it no longer allows advertising on the platform. The decision by YouTube parent company, Google, has attracted protests from Navalny, who said well-targeted ads helped counteract Kremlin propaganda.
Mohan said that YouTube remains the largest video-sharing site in Russia. YouTube is a place where Russian citizens can get uncensored information about the war, including from many of the authoritative channels that we all have access to outside of the country. The Russian minister for digital development, Maksut Shadaev, said the country would not block YouTube despite disputes over content that resulted in the platform being fined in court for not removing banned videos.
Shadaev indicated that blocking Russia's most popular social media platform would affect users. The minister said we are not planning to shut down YouTube. When we restrict something, we should clearly understand that our users won't suffer. YouTube has banned all channels associated with Russian state media, including Russia Today and Sputnik. In Russia, Facebook and Instagram have been banned and access to Twitter has been restricted due to the platforms' bans on Russian state-owned media.