The Russian video platform Rutube is gaining a huge number of local millionaire bloggers.
Which is perhaps not surprising, given that it is sees itself as the country’s answer to YouTube, which may soon be banned in Russia as a result of the war in Ukraine.
Since the start of hostilities on February 24, social media platforms have been at the forefront of developments and indeed on the firing line. Facebook’s parent company Meta, for instance, announced at the end of last month that it would block access to RT (Russia Today) and the news agency Sputnik throughout the European Union. Then early this month it signalled a temporary change in its hate speech policy, allowing Facebook and Instagram users in some CEE countries to call for violence against Russians and the presidents of Russia and Belarus.
Russia responded to this by banning Facebook and Instagram on March 21, having restricted access to the services a couple of weeks earlier. The Moscow court that made the ruling labelled Meta as “extremist”, while a representative of Russia’s security service FSB accused Meta of creating an “alternative reality”. Interestingly, the latter term has been used extensively in the media outside Russia when describing coverage of the war on Russian state TV channels.
WhatsApp, unlike Facebook, Instagram and indeed Twitter, has so far escaped a ban in Russia. LinkedIn, on the other hand, fell victim long before the war, having been expelled from the country in late 2016 for allegedly violating its data protection laws.
The real question now is what happens to YouTube, which has long had a difficult relationship with the authorities and now finds itself on thin ice following its decision to ban Russian state-funded media channels globally on March 11. Its owner Google has since announced it would not allow users worldwide to monetise content that “exploits, dismisses or condones the war” and the Russian regulator Roskomnadzor responded by banning Google News for spreading what it deems to be false information.
YouTube is believed to be accessed by over three-quarters of internet users in Russia and its disappearance would be a major development in the social media ‘information war’ now being waged alongside the military conflict in Ukraine.
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