The Institute for Strategic Dialogue (ISD), an international think tank, is reporting that while RT and other Russian outlets are banned on YouTube, RT content has managed to sidestep this ban with a rebrand of the same content under the new name ‘Dig Deep Documentary.’ According to an ISD report:
July 5, 2022 On 11 March, YouTube announced that it would block Russian state media from its platform globally in response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and subsequent international sanctions. This followed an earlier block on the Russian state media channels Russia Today (RT) and Sputnik on YouTube in Europe. […] For over a decade RT’s YouTube channel racked up millions of subscribers and billions of views, hitting 10 billion views in 2020, and placing it ahead of major Western news networks, including the BBC, CNN, Al Jazeera and Fox News. […] On 17 April, just over a month after RT was banned, a YouTube channel called Dig Deep Documentary was created. According to the channel’s description, its purpose was to provide an “in-depth analysis of the current political and social agenda. We offer information a mainstream YouTube channel would never give. Our viewers get a wider perspective on the issue. Join us if you like to hear all sides to the story. We are bringing the truth to the whole world about Russia-Ukraine [sic] conflict and what is going on in Ukraine right now.” The content uploaded by Dig Deep Documentary is RT content with the RT watermark removed and replaced with a Dig Deep (DD) watermark. […] In addition to news clips and footage that previously aired on RT’s channels, Dig Deep Documentary also (as the name suggests) publishes RT’s documentaries. This includes, for example, RT’s newest documentary ‘Lugansk: Road to Independence 2022–2014’, a propaganda film about the occupied Lugansk region, which has been controlled by pro-Russian militia since 2014.
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The ISD report notes that the Dig Deep Documentary YouTube account appears to operate with RT’s knowledge and endorsement because a verified RT Facebook account has promoted the YouTube channel, encouraging followers to watch, subscribe and share the channel.
In November, the Global Influence Operations Report (GIOR) reported on the central importance of YouTube to Russia’s global influence, noting that a ban of Russia’s media outlets on YouTube would represent a devastating blow to its information war. We also reported that RT en Español, the Spanish-language channel of Russian broadcaster RT, was the second most-watched Spanish-language news channel on YouTube. Recent GIOR coverage of Russian disinformation on YouTube has included:
- In June, we reported that YouTube blocked almost 500 pro-Russian channels with an audience of over 15 million subscribers at the request of Ukrainian intelligence.
- In June, we reported that the YouTube channel of pro-Russian propagandist Patrick Lancaster has grown from 57,500 subscribers to more than 500,000 since the beginning of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
- In October, we reported that YouTube said it had removed more than two million Russian videos since 2019.