When the dust finally settled, the morning after Valentine’s Day, it was Instagram — not YouTube — that had complied with orders from Russia’s federal censor to delete content flagged as a privacy violation by a court in Ust-Labinsky. On February 9, Instagram was given three weekdays to delete 14 posts uploaded by a self-described escort who calls herself “Nastya Rybka” (her real name is Anastasia Vashukevich). The posts contained photos and videos showing oligarch Oleg Deripaska, who is suing Vashukevich for violating his privacy. Before the February 14 deadline, Vashukevich actually removed most of the content herself. On Valentine’s Day, Instagram deleted the final two posts named in Deripaska’s lawsuit.
YouTube, which signaled on February 12 that it would force Navalny’s live channel to comply with Roskomnadzor’s orders, has actually declined, so far, to block or delete copies of his investigative report about Deripaska and Deputy Prime Minister Sergey Prikhodko, which he based on Vashukevich’s photos and videos. A spokesperson for Russia’s censor told the newspaper Vedomosti that the agency still expects Google, which owns YouTube, to comply. On February 12, an anonymous source at YouTube told The New York Times that the company wouldn’t delete Navalny’s video globally “if it were to comply,” but would “block it only on the Russian YouTube site.”
Because some Russian Internet service providers lack the technical sophistication to block individual web pages on a domain, many Russian Internet users would be left without access, if Roskomnadzor ordered ISPs to start blocking specific YouTube videos. So long as the website doesn’t remove or block the videos singled out in Deripaska’s lawsuit, YouTube can be blocked in Russia at any time.
The Ust-Labinsky court’s takedown order also applies to news media outlets. Roskomnadzor ordered five publications to redact stories about Navalny’s investigative report, and all five complied. 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.
Alexey Navalny has refused to comply with Roskomnadzor’s takedown orders. Instead, he’s suing the government for what he says is illegal censorship. As a result, Roskomnadzor ordered ISPs to start blocking navalny.com on February 15. At the time of this writing, Navalny’s website was already inaccessible to customers using Megafon, Rostelecom, MTS, Tele2, and other ISPs.
On February 8, Alexey Navalny published an investigative report 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. Accusing Deripaska of bribing Prikhodko, Navalny based his report on videos and photos shared online by a self-described escort who calls herself “Nastya Rybka.”