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Civil society groups ask YouTube and Google to ‘stop helping Russian censorship’

A group of human rights activists and independent journalists has sent an open letter to YouTube and Google, calling on the video hosting service and its parent company to stop helping Russia’s federal censor. The letter begins by acknowledging that Google has been hit in Russia with massive fines, property seizures, police raids, and even local bankruptcy. The authors also thank YouTube for continuing to operate in Russia, where it remains “an important platform for Russian independent media, persecuted politicians, and human rights organizations.” 

However, YouTube recently blocked several videos about evading military service in Russia and notified multiple channels administered by human rights organizations and journalists that access to their content would be banned inside Russia on orders from the federal censor, Roskomnadzor. YouTube later unblocked some of the videos amid negative publicity, but they remain hidden from the service’s own search engine. 

The open letter warns that Russia’s norms of information laws and Internet censorship practices “contradict both the very principles and rules of YouTube and international human rights standards.” The message is signed by Access Now, Roskomsvoboda, OVD-Info, Reporters Without Borders, and other organizations.

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