Russia ‘Not Planning To Block YouTube’ Says Minister

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Digital minister says Russia not planning to block YouTube in the country as Russian users would suffer, amidst mounting tensions with West

Russia is not planning to block YouTube as it would harm Russian users, the country’s digital development minister said on Tuesday, amidst heightened tensions between the government and multinational tech companies.

Russia has blocked or slowed access to other social media platforms, and has threatened Google’s YouTube for failing to delete content it considers illegal.

But the country has so far held off from barring access from within Russia, in part because it lacks a large-scale equivalent to the service.

“We are not planning to close YouTube,” Maksut Shadaev, who aside from digital also handles communications and mass media, told an educational forum, according to Interfax and Reuters.

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“Above all, when we restrict something, we should clearly understand that our users won’t suffer.”

Speaking to a large auditorium of mostly young Russians, he reportedly said competition is the engine of progress and blocking is an extreme measure.

YouTube has around 90 million users in Russia and plays a significant economic role in the country.

Russia was already entangled in disputes with large multinational social media companies, but its February invasion of Ukraine added urgency to its push to control sources of information.

In early March YouTube and Facebook parent Meta Platforms began blocking access to Russian state-backed media in Europe, and Russia responded to this “censorship” by restricting access to Facebook – but not YouTube.

Sanctions

Twitter was also restricted, and later in March Russia also restricted Meta’s Instagram over “calls for violence” on the platform.

Many Instagram users said they would switch to Telegram or Russia’s state-controlled VK social network.

Western companies have meanwhile limited or shut down their operations in Russia, partly in order to comply with Western sanctions.

Google has limited Russian access to paid Android apps and updates from the Play Store and recently added Russian ally Belarus to the blockade.

“As part of our compliance efforts, Google Play is blocking the downloading of paid apps and updates to paid apps in Russia and Belarus,” Google said in a help article.