Last week, Russia’s federal censor ordered several media outlets to redact news reports about an investigative report published on February 8 by politician Alexey Navalny about oligarch Oleg Deripaska and Deputy Prime Minister Sergey Prikhodko meeting aboard a yacht in August 2016, possibly to discuss Russia’s interference in the U.S. presidential election. Navalny based his report on videos and photos shared online by a self-described escort who calls herself Nastya Rybka.
In connection with a lawsuit Deripaska filed against Rybka, Roskomnadzor ordered Mediazona, the independent U.S.-government-funded Radio Svoboda, Znak.com, NEWSru.com, and Snob to delete links to Navalny’s report on YouTube. On Wednesday, February 14, Russian officials announced that all five publications have complied with the government’s orders. (You can still find the YouTube video embedded in a Meduza report from February 9.)
Mediazona, Radio Svoboda, and NEWSru.com all removed Navalny’s YouTube video from their reports published last week, informing readers that they were under Roskomnadzor’s orders to do so. Znak.com simply deleted its original article on Navalny’s investigation, and Snob’s February 8 report now features no hyperlinks to Navalny’s Deripaska video (though you’ll still find an embedded video showing drone footage of Sergey Prikhodko’s alleged summer home, uploaded to YouTube by Navalny’s colleague, Georgy Alburov).
Roskomnadzor says the content contained at 29 of the hyperlinks identified in Deripaska’s lawsuit has already been deleted. The remaining 14 Instagram posts and seven YouTube videos will be blocked in Russia by the end of February 14, if Google and Facebook refuse to comply with Moscow’s orders.
Navalny has filed a lawsuit against Roskomnadzor, arguing that the agency illegally blacklisted his February 8 investigative report, saying that his research is based on open-source information, not confidential data. He also says there’s an overriding public interest at stake that eclipses Deripaska’s privacy concerns.
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 800,000 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 4.7 million views.
YouTube’s message says it is responding to a takedown order issued by Roskomnadzor. The email’s final line reads: “If you do not delete this content, the company Google may be forced to block the content.”