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29 Sep, 2021 14:24

Berlin rejects Moscow’s accusation of involvement in YouTube ban of RT’s German-language channels

Berlin rejects Moscow’s accusation of involvement in YouTube ban of RT’s German-language channels

The German government had nothing to do with YouTube’s decision to ban RT’s German-language channels, Berlin has said, rejecting Moscow’s allegations to the contrary.

Moscow claimed that the German government gave its tacit or open approval to the decision by the US tech giant to delete two channels of RT DE, RT’s Berlin-based German-language news outlet. Russia argued that it fits a pattern of harassment of Russian media in Germany.

“It was a decision taken by YouTube against RT, based on rules created by YouTube for itself,” German government spokesman Steffen Seibert told reporters on Wednesday, responding to the Russian allegations.

“It is not a measure taken by the German federal government or other official organizations,” he said.

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YouTube banned the popular channels run by RT DE after accusing the outlet of “severe or repeated violations” of its community rules. The Google-owned platform previously flagged several videos on the RT DE channel, which covered Germany’s response to Covid-19 epidemic and included opinions critical of Berlin’s handling of it. It did not specify what exactly it believed to be in violation of its guidelines.

Moscow called the ban “an act of unprecedented information aggression,” and said YouTube made its decision “with obvious connivance, if not at the insistence,” of the German government.

RT DE was earlier subjected to what the Russian government considers a pattern of harassment, which included German banks refusing their services to the outlet and German newspapers attacking it for allegedly serving as a vehicle of deceitful Russian propaganda. Moscow believes that the German government was orchestrating the campaign, an allegation that Berlin has repeatedly denied.

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The tech giants have been ramping up content censorship on their platforms since 2016, when they were accused by the US establishment of facilitating an alleged Russian operation to meddle in the presidential election. Russia has denied interfering.

Last year, Silicon Valley crossed a line, many free speech advocates believe, when it actively suppressed a New York Post story about Hunter Biden’s laptop. Emails found on the device pointed to attempts to peddle influence for his father, then-candidate and current President Joe Biden.

The story was branded (without evidence) as Russian disinformation by former US intelligence officials, which the media used as justification to not cover it. The Biden campaign never denied the authenticity of the emails, and some of them have since been confirmed to be authentic by second sources.

Moscow suspects that global digital monopolists like Google have links to the US government, and could be operating in pursuit of Washington’s foreign interests.

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