YouTube reportedly caves to Russia's federal censor, orders ‘NavalnyLive’ to delete its #RussiaGate investigative report
Google has reportedly sent a message to the owners of the “NavalnyLive” YouTube channel, demanding that the administrators delete a video where Navalny accuses oligarch Oleg Deripaska of meeting with Deputy Prime Minister Sergey Prikhodko aboard the former’s yacht in August 2016, possibly to discuss Moscow’s interference in the U.S. presidential election. Deripaska is suing Anastasia Vashukevich (better known as “Nastya Rybka”), the self-described “escort” who originally published the yacht footage. On February 9, a court in Ust-Labinsky (where Deripaska’s businesses happen to pay half their national tax debt) banned the dissemination of Vashukevich’s photos and videos, which appear in Navalny’s investigative report shared on YouTube.
On February 12, “NavalnyLive” producer Oksana Baulina revealed on Twitter that the channel received an email from YouTube demanding that it delete an archived live broadcast from February 8, where Navalny recapped his larger investigative report on Deripaska and Prikhodko. At the time of this writing, the “NavalnyLive” video has more than 689,000 views. The 25-minute investigative report published on Alexey Navalny’s own YouTube channel (which is not mentioned in the letter published by Baulina) currently has more than 4 million views.
YouTube’s message says that it is responding to a takedown order issued by Roskomnadzor, Russia’s federal censor. The email’s final line reads: “If you do not delete this content, the company Google may be forced to block the content.”
After the court order from Ust-Labinsky, Roskomnadzor started ordering Russian media outlets to delete photos, videos, “and any other personal information” published in stories about Navalny’s investigative report. Mediazona, Radio Svoboda, Znak.com, NEWSru.com, and Snob all reportedly received letters from the government. On February 12, the Ust-Labinsky court refused to offer any clarification about its ruling to representatives of Mediazona and Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation.
On February 10, Roskomnadzor ordered Russian Internet Service Providers to start blocking hyperlinks to 14 photographs from Vashukevich’s Instagram account and several videos shared on her YouTube page. The agency also blacklisted Alexey Navalny’s investigative report published on YouTube.
Also on February 10, Vashukevich deleted from her Instagram page all her photos and videos of Deripaska and Prikhodko, except for one photo where she and Deripaska are relaxing together on his yacht. She deleted all photos showing Prikhodko.
On February 12, Roskomnadzor warned YouTube and Instagram that it will block the two popular services in Russia if they do not start removing Vashukevich’s Deripaska videos by Valentine’s Day.