In the midst of the ongoing war in Ukraine, YouTube has blocked the channels connected to Russian state-backed media outlets Russia Today (RT) and Sputnik across Europe effective immediately. The two channels have been called out of spreading misinformation and Kremlin based agenda calling Russian invasion as a ‘special operation’.
YouTube in its statement said that the company was observing the situation in Ukraine very closely. “It’ll take time for the systems to fully ramp up. Our teams continue to monitor the situation around the clock to take swift action,” the company operated by Alphabet Inc’s Google, said on Tuesday.
This is a day after the European Union took an unprecedented step and announced that it would ban Kremlin based media outlets named Russia Today and Sputnik. “The state-owned Russia Today and Sputnik, as well as their subsidiaries will no longer be able to spread their lies to justify Putin’s war and to sow division in our Union. So we are developing tools to ban their toxic and harmful disinformation in Europe,” said the EU’s president, Ursula von der Leyen in a statement.
#UPDATE YouTube has blocked Russian channels RT and Sputnik in Europe “taking into account the ongoing war in Ukraine”, the video-sharing platform says..— AFP News Agency (@AFP) March 1, 2022
“We are blocking the YouTube channels of RT and Sputnik in the whole of Europe with immediate effect” pic.twitter.com/HAiZSeeg9f
European Commissioner in Charge of Internal Market Thierry Breton and the values and transparency commissioner, Vera Jourova spoke to the CEOs of Google and YouTube urging them to step up efforts against Russian propaganda. Russia Today has 4.66 million subscribers while Sputnik has 322k subscribers on YouTube.
Earlier the day, social media platforms like Facebook, Tiktok and Microsoft also exercised ban on the two outlets. Nick Clegg, Vice President of Global Affairs at Facebook parent Meta said that the company had received requests from various governments and the EU to take further steps in relation to Russian state-controlled media. “Given the exceptional nature of the current situation, we will be restricting access to RT and Sputnik across the EU at this time”, Clegg said.
Meanwhile, Microsoft dropped RT’s news apps from its smartphone app store and announced that it would not display any RT or Sputnik content on its Microsoft Start news feed and MSN.com. It further has pushed the sites down in Bing search results.
On February 26, the micro-blogging site Twitter had also paused advertisements in Ukraine and Russia to ensure critical public safety. It had also paused certain tweet recommendations for people in war-torn Ukraine and Russia to prevent the dissemination of abusive content.
It is pertinent to note that Russia Today and Sputnik have followers of millions on social media platforms. According to the reports, the two media outlets have made attempts to justify Russia’s decision of invading Ukraine. They have framed Russia’s invasion as a response to Ukrainian aggression and called it as a ‘special operation’.
On February 24, Russia launched attacks on Ukraine from the neighbouring country Belarus. The Russian forces crossed Belarus to enter Ukraine from the North and crashed attacks on border units, border patrols, and checkpoints using artillery, heavy equipment, and small arms.