News Brief

Russia Thinks YouTube May Be “Interfering” in Russian Elections

The Russian government has ordered Google to prevent the country’s leading opposition figure from posting on its YouTube video sharing site, warning the U.S. tech giant that if it fails to respond it will be considered as “direct interference” in upcoming elections.

The warning, issued by Russia’s censorship agency, is one of several put out by government bodies in response to protests called for by opposition leader Alexander Navalny for September 9th — when the country is due to vote in nationwide regional elections, according to the news site Meduza.

The words used in the various Russian statements targeting Google read like an echo of American government complaints about Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential elections.

Russia’s Central Election Commission also complained to Google about Navalny using YouTube to distribute information about the protests, which have been spurred by controversial pension reforms.

Government proposals to raise the pensionable age — to ward off budget pressures partially caused by international sanctions — have provoked widespread public anger, denting President Vladimir Putin’s approval ratings and forcing him into a rare climb-down on parts of the plan.

The Kremlin has fought a long-running against Navalny, often jailing him on charges he says are concocted. He is currently serving a 30-day prison sentence on charges of organizing “illegal” protests earlier in the year — and few doubt that this was timed to stop him attending demonstrations on September 9.

The Russian Foreign Ministry has also passed on similar warnings to their U.S. counterparts, according to Meduza, saying that the activities of Google and other American information services “are within an inch of violating Russian election law.”