YouTube moderators have deleted a Russian campaign video that used homophobic humor to urge participation in an upcoming plebiscite on constitutional amendments. “This video has been removed for violating YouTube's policy on hate speech,” says a message where the video used to be accessible, followed by a hyperlink to the website’s policy on hate speech, which says the company removes content that promotes hatred against groups based on an array of attributes, including sexual orientation.
The video is the brainchild of the Federal News Agency and the media group “Patriot,” which independent journalists have linked to Evgeny Prigozhin, a catering mogul who allegedly controls a powerful mercenary group and has famously close ties to Vladimir Putin. The campaign ad depicts a hypothetical Russia where voters have rejected new constitutional amendments, including a proposed change to Article 72 of the Russian Constitution to define marriage explicitly as a heterosexual union. In the video, two gay men adopt a young boy, to the horror of orphanage employees.
Ironically, the actor who played the “gay mother” in the video later told journalists that he plans to vote against the amendments to express his anger about excessive policing during the coronavirus epidemic.
LGBTQ rights activists have asked Russia’s state censor to block the video and they’ve also filed reports with federal investigators and prosecutors, arguing that the campaign video constitutes illegal hate speech.
Russia is set to hold a nationwide vote on constitutional amendments on July 1. The changes include a “zeroing out” of Vladimir Putin’s presidential term clock, which would enable him to remain in office until 2036.