Russian Watchdog Warns Of Government Action Amid YouTube Dispute
Google received a request from Russian watchdog Roskomnadzor to stop supporting YouTube videos that highlighted anti-government protests that took place on Saturday. The media regulator said Moscow will take the appropriate measures should the U.S. video-sharing giant refuse to comply.
According to Deutsche Welle, the regulator revealed on Sunday that Google may have capitalized on some of YouTube's tools such as the push notification button to highlight the mass protests that took place in Moscow over the weekend.
Furthermore, Roskomnadzor warned that should Google refuse to take down the videos, the regulator will then conclude that the move is a form of "interference" in Russia's "sovereign affairs."
The watchdog also said that Google, as the owner of YouTube, will be deemed exemplifying "hostile influence [over] and obstruction of democratic elections in Russia" if it fails to comply with the regulator's requests.
Russia has been very strict of its search engine policies over the past few years. The government is also known for trying to put a noose around Google's neck as it is the biggest rival of Russia's very own Yandex.
Industry experts believe that Google has been put in a sticky position where it will have to choose between retaining the protesting people's freedom of expression while protecting itself from drawing further ire from Moscow.
On the other hand, analysts noted that at this point, the American search giant is left with no choice but to adhere to Russian media laws. This is especially true after the watchdog said authorities have the right to "an adequate reaction" to the issue. Details about Moscow's potential action against Google should it refuse to back down has yet to be disclosed.
Russian Senator Andery Klimov said on the day of the protests that YouTube was used by the opposition to promote the rallies that were reportedly peaceful at first until some protesters decided to take their cause to the streets, RT reported.
Klimov further claimed that the spread of protest videos could have been stopped "without the complicity of certain Western organizations, owners of the relevant network companies." Google has yet to respond to the watchdog's calls and Klimov's allegations.
Some people who reportedly did not subscribe to channels that shared protest videos on YouTube received notifications about the new videos. No details were given about the extent of the alleged misuse of the video-sharing platform.
Thousands of people took to Moscow streets on Saturday in a bid to call for open city elections. Protest tally NGO White Counter estimated that almost 50,000 people attended the opposition's arrest-laden demonstration.