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YouTube Is A Central Part Of Russia’s Global Information Operations

November 8th, 2021 13:44

Euro­pean media report­ed last month on the cen­tral impor­tance of YouTube to Russia’s glob­al influ­ence, argu­ing that a ban of Russia’s media out­lets on YouTube would rep­re­sent a dev­as­tat­ing blow to its infor­ma­tion war. Accord­ing to a Eurac­tiv report:

Octo­ber 21, 2021 On Sep­tem­ber 29, RT DE, a prop­er­ty of the Russ­ian gov­ern­ment and YouTube’s fourth most-watched Ger­man news chan­nel, went dark. The day before, YouTube had issued new guide­lines on vac­cine mis­in­for­ma­tion and as a result removed a video from RT DE. When the chan­nel attempt­ed to upload the banned video to a sis­ter chan­nel, YouTube banned both. The Russ­ian response was sple­net­ic. The Russ­ian For­eign Min­istry called it an “act of unprece­dent­ed infor­ma­tion aggres­sion” and an “Info-Bar­barossa,” a ref­er­ence to the code­name for the 1941 Nazi inva­sion of the Sovi­et Union. […]

The response reflects the cen­tral impor­tance of YouTube to the Krem­lin and also reveals Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin’s real-world weak­ness: YouTube can afford to lose the Russ­ian chan­nels that pop­u­late its plat­form, but for Rus­sia its loss of the Google-owned plat­form would rep­re­sent a dev­as­tat­ing blow to its infor­ma­tion war. The response also reveals the way Rus­sia views the world. With­in its own bor­ders, media com­pa­nies either do as they are told or face grind­ing and ulti­mate­ly los­ing bat­tles for their inde­pen­dence. YouTube is there­fore seen as an instru­ment of geopo­lit­i­cal com­pe­ti­tion wield­ed by NATO to attack adver­saries’ inter­ests. Russ­ian state media and YouTube have long main­tained a sym­bi­ot­ic rela­tion­ship, where each relies on the oth­er to assist its growth — of Russia’s glob­al mes­sag­ing for the Krem­lin and of busi­ness growth for YouTube. There was always like­ly to be a moment when these two ambi­tions clashed.

Read the rest here.

The report notes that RT has been YouTube’s most-watched Eng­lish news chan­nel world­wide for some time and that it remains the sev­enth-ranked in Eng­lish, sec­ond in Span­ish, and fourth in Ara­bic. The report also argues that togeth­er with oth­er Russ­ian out­lets NTV, Rus­sia 24, and Chan­nel One, RT makes Russia’s gov­ern­ment a key com­po­nent in YouTube’s news offering.

A study on the rela­tion­ship between YouTube and Rus­sia esti­mat­ed ear­li­er this year that YouTube’s part­ner­ship with Russ­ian gov­ern­ment- and oli­garch-owned dig­i­tal pub­lish­ing house have gen­er­at­ed $185 mil­lion in ad sales.