YouTube has removed more than 70,000 videos and 9,000 channels related to the war in Ukraine for violating its content guidelines, including removing videos that referred to the invasion as an “editing mission”.
The platform is very popular in Russia, where, unlike some of its US counterparts, it has not been shut down despite hosting content from opposition figures like Alexei Navalny. YouTube was also able to operate in Russia despite cracking down on pro-Kremlin content that violated guidelines including the Major Violent Events Policy, which prohibits denying or downplaying the invasion.
Since the conflict broke out in February, YouTube has suspended channels including that of pro-Kremlin journalist Vladimir Solovyov. Channels linked to Russia’s defense and foreign ministries have also been temporarily suspended from uploading videos in recent months to describe the war as a “liberating mission.”
YouTube removes 70,000 videos because of Ukraine
“We have a Major Violent Events policy and that applies to things like denial of major violent events: everything from the Holocaust to Sandy Hook,” said Neil Mohan, YouTube’s chief product officer. And of course, what is happening in Ukraine is a major violent event. And so we have used that policy to take unprecedented action.”
In an interview with The Guardian, Mohan added that news content on YouTube about the conflict has received more than 40 million views in Ukraine alone.
YouTube did not provide a breakdown of what content and channels were removed, but Mohan said many of them represented the Kremlin’s accounts of the invasion. “I don’t have the exact numbers,” he said, “but you can imagine that a lot of them are accounts coming in from the Russian government, or pro-Russian government actors.”
“YouTube remains the largest video-sharing site operated and operated in Russia itself,” Mohan said. “YouTube is a place where Russian citizens can get uncensored information about the war, including from many of the same official channels that we can all access outside the country. We remain an important platform for Russian citizens themselves as this crisis continues to develop.”
Last week, Russia’s Minister of Digital Development, Maksut Shadaev, said the country would not block YouTube, despite disputes over content that led to the platform being fined in court for not removing the banned videos.
Shadev indicated that the ban of the most popular social media platforms in Russia will affect users. “We are not planning to shut down YouTube,” the minister said. “Above all else, when we restrict something, we must clearly understand that our users will not be affected.”
YouTube has also imposed a worldwide ban on channels linked to Russian state media, including Russia Today and Sputnik. Facebook and Instagram have been blocked in Russia and access to Twitter has been restricted, in response to a ban on private platforms on Russia’s state-owned media.