YouTube removes more than 9,000 channels and 70,000 videos relating to Ukraine war

YouTube removes more than 9,000 channels and 70,000 videos relating to Ukraine war

YouTube has said that its news content on the Ukraine war has received over 40m views in that country alone. Picture: Dmytro Laryn/Ukrainska Pravda

YouTube has taken down over 70,000 videos and 9,000 channels related to the war in Ukraine for violating content guidelines, including removing videos that referred to the invasion as a “liberation mission”.

The platform is hugely popular in Russia where, unlike some of its US peers, it has not been shut down despite hosting content from opposition figures such as Alexei Navalny. 

Content crackdown

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 pro-Kremlin journalist Vladimir Solovyov. Channels associated with Russia’s ministries of defence and foreign affairs have also been temporarily suspended from uploading videos in recent months for describing the war as a “liberation mission”.

YouTube chief product officer Neal Mohan said: “We have a major violent events policy and that applies to things like denial of major violent events: everything from the Holocaust to Sandy Hook. 

What’s happening in Ukraine is a major violent event and so we’ve used that policy to take unprecedented action

He told  The Guardian that YouTube’s news content on the conflict has received over 40m views in Ukraine alone.

“The first and probably most paramount responsibility is making sure that people who are looking for information about this event can get accurate, high-quality, credible information on YouTube,” he said. “The consumption of authoritative channels on our platform has grown significantly, of course in Ukraine, but also in countries surrounding Ukraine, Poland, and also within Russia itself.” 

Advertising ban

YouTube has an estimated 90m users in Russia, although it no longer allows advertising on the platform in that country. The decision by YouTube parent company Google has drawn protests from Mr Navalny, who said well-targeted ads helped counteract Kremlin propaganda.

“YouTube remains the largest video-sharing site up and running in Russia itself,” said Mr Mohan. 

YouTube is a place where Russian citizens can get uncensored information about the war, including from many of the same authoritative channels that we all have access to outside of the country

"We remain an important platform for Russian citizens themselves as this crisis continues to evolve.” 

Last week, Russian digital development minister Maksut Shadaev said the country would not block YouTube, despite disputes over content that have resulted in the platform being fined in court for not removing banned videos.

“We are not planning to close YouTube,” he said. “Above all, when we restrict something, we should clearly understand that our users won’t suffer.”

Facebook and Instagram are banned in Russia and access to Twitter has been restricted in response to the platforms’ own bans on Russian state-owned media.

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