YouTube Shuts Down Russian Broadcaster's German Branch, Russia Calls it Censorship

Two German channels of the Russian state broadcaster RT were shut down by YouTube on Wednesday in an effort to combat misinformation, a decision that was met with threats of retaliation by Russia, the Associated Press reported.

The Google-owned content platform said that RT's German channel was given a "strike" for uploading videos against YouTube's standards on COVID-19 misinformation. The channel is suspended from uploading new content as a punishment.

"During this suspension, RT DE tried to circumvent this restriction by using another YouTube channel to upload its videos," which resulted in both channels being terminated for violating YouTube's conditions of use, it added.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

YouTube
Google-owned YouTube shut down two German channels of the Russian state broadcaster RT this week, a move that elicited threats from Russia. Above, Google Hamburg on July 27, 2021, in Hamburg, Germany. Getty/Getty Images

Writing on the messaging app Telegram, RT Editor-in-Chief Margarita Simonyan called the move "a true media war" by Germany on Russia.

"I'm looking forward to my native state banning Deutsche Welle and other German media in Russia without delay, as well as close the offices of ARD and ZDF," Simonyan said, referring to Germany's main public television stations. "Not to mention sanctions on YouTube."

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov likened YouTube's decision to censorship.

"There are indications that Russian laws have been violated, violated rather grossly," he said.

Asked if he believes that companies operating in other countries, like YouTube in Germany, should follow Russian laws, Peskov replied: "Of course—when it comes to violating the rights of our legal entities, moreover, our media outlets."

The Russian Foreign Ministry said it would ask relevant government bodies to work up retaliatory measures against German media and YouTube, adding that such a response was "not only appropriate, but also necessary."

Russia's state communications watchdog, Roskomnadzor, demanded that Google restore access to RT's YouTube channels and threatened the platform with fines and a ban if it fails to do so.

In Berlin, German government spokesman Steffen Seibert said the government has "taken note" of the YouTube decision.

"Since there are different accounts, particularly on Russian channels, I want to say in crystal-clear terms that this is a decision by YouTube, and the German government, or representatives of the German government, have nothing to do with this decision," Seibert told reporters.

"So anyone who alleges that is putting together a conspiracy theory...there is absolutely no reason for...'retaliation' against German media working in Russia. Anyone who calls for such retaliation...doesn't show a good relationship with press freedom, from our point of view."

German security services have said they consider RT's German service to be a propaganda arm of the Russian state.

RT, previously known as Russia Today, provides its German offering online but so far lacks a license to broadcast in Germany via a terrestrial or satellite signal.

Last month, Luxembourg rejected an application by RT for a license to distribute its German-language service via satellite. Authorities in the country concluded that Luxembourg wasn't the right jurisdiction to rule on the request because RT's German service is based in Berlin and a significant part of its workforce is in Germany.