Google has started evacuating its staff from Russia as the tech giant risks becoming the latest target of an unprecedented crackdown on free speech amid Moscow’s deadly invasion of Ukraine, as per the reports.
In recent weeks, the tech giant has begun helping some of its 244 employees who had expressed interest in relocating from Russia.
Google has also suspended the plan of advertising in Russia after the invasion, and its YouTube video hosting service said it had also removed more than 1,000 channels related to the invasion — including one run by Russia’s Defense Ministry — for violating its content policies.
“Our policies restrict content denying, minimizing or trivializing well-documented violent events, including Russia’s invasion in Ukraine,” Google said.
The aggressive moderation of pro-Russian media reportedly prompted worries among YouTube managers that Russia would ban the popular service in retaliation.
Russia’s media regulator blamed YouTube of “terrorist” behaviour for running since-removed ads calling for sabotage of Russian and Belarusian railways, and state media have reported that YouTube could be banned as soon as this week.
Yet, there are no signs that Google’s popular search engine faces a similar risk of being banned in Russia.
A Russian court banned Facebook and Instagram as “extremist” Monday, days after blocking access to the social media giants in the country.
Google joined hundreds of foreign firms in complying with Western sanctions following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, announcing a halt to its advertising business in the country.
In recent years, Russia has increased pressure on mostly U.S.-based tech companies for what it calls interference in Russia’s domestic affairs and other infractions.