Russia is not deciding to block Alphabet Inc’s (GOOGL.O) Youtube, the minister for digital development said on Tuesday, accepting the fact that such a move would likely see Russian users suffer and should therefore be avoided.
Russia has blocked several other foreign social media platforms, but despite months of fines and threats against YouTube for failing to remove the content Moscow deems illegal and for restricting access to some Russian media, it has stopped short of delivering a killer blow to the video-hosting service.
With around 90 million monthly users in Russia, YouTube is very popular and also plays a significant role in the digital economy. Although, Russia has domestic versions of other social media, a viable YouTube alternative on that scale is yet to emerge.
Meanwhile, the minister of communication and mass media, Maksut Shadaev, said, “We are not planning to close YouTube. Above all, when we restrict something, we should clearly understand that our users won’t suffer.”
He said, “Competition is the engine of progress and blocking is an extreme measure.”
In addition, Russia has also restricted the access to Twitter and Meta Platform’s Facebook and Instagram in early March. It vowed in April to punish Google for shutting out Russian state-funded media globally on YouTube, accusing it of spreading fakes about what Russia calls its special military operation in Ukraine.
Meta was found guilty of “extremist activity” in March, a ruling that the company objected to, but a Kremlin spokesperson on Tuesday has made a statement that he would not rule out the return of Instagram, provided Meta complies with Russian laws on content and local offices.