YouTube Removes More Than 9,000 Channels Related To Ukrainian War

YouTube removed more than 70,000 videos and more than 9,000 channels for violating content guidelines, including removing videos referring to the invasion of Ukraine as a “liberation mission.”

The platform is very popular in Russia, where, unlike some of its American peers, it has not been shut down despite hosting content from opposition figures like Alexei Navalny. YouTube has also been able to operate in Russia despite crackdowns on pro-Kremlin content that violates guidelines, including a major violence incident policy that prohibits denying or downplaying a Russian invasion.

Since the conflict began in February, YouTube has shut down channels, including that of pro-Kremlin journalist Vladimir Solovyov. Channels related to the Russian Ministry of Defense and Foreign Ministry have also temporarily stopped uploading videos depicting the war as a “liberation mission” in recent months.

YouTube’s Chief Product Officer Neal Mohan said: And, of course, what is happening in Ukraine is a major incident of violence. So we used that policy to take unprecedented action.”

In an interview with The Guardian, Mohan added that news content on YouTube about the conflict had more than 40 million views in Ukraine alone.

“The first and perhaps most important responsibility is to ensure that people looking for information about this event get accurate, high-quality and reliable information on YouTube,” he said. “Consumption of prestigious channels on our platform, as well as in Ukraine, has increased significantly not only in Ukraine, but also in the countries surrounding Ukraine, Poland and Russia itself.”

YouTube didn’t provide analysis of the taken down content and channels, but Mohan said most represent the Kremlin’s story of the invasion. “I don’t have a specific number, but I can imagine that most of the stories are coming from the Russian government or Russian actors representing the Russian government,” he said.

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YouTube has around 90 million users in Russia, but in Russia the platform no longer accepts ads. YouTube’s parent company Google’s decision sparked protests from Navalny, who said well-targeted advertising had helped neutralize the Kremlin’s propaganda.

“YouTube remains the largest video-sharing site operating in Russia itself,” Mohan said. “YouTube is a place where Russian citizens can get uncensored information about the war. This includes the same authoritative channels that we all have access to from abroad. As this crisis continues to evolve, we remain an important platform for Russian citizens themselves.”

Last week, Russia’s Minister of Digital Development, Maksut Shadaev, said the state would not block YouTube, despite a court fined the platform for failing to remove a banned video due to a dispute over its content.

Shadaev said blocking Russia’s most popular social media platform would affect users. “There are no plans to shut down YouTube,” the minister said. “Above all, we need to clearly understand that when we limit something, users will not suffer.”

YouTube has also placed a global ban on channels related to Russian state media, including Russia Today and Sputnik. Facebook and Instagram were banned in Russia and access to Twitter was also restricted in response to the platform’s own ban on Russian state media.

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