YouTube is feeling the heat when Russia promotes the engine of “digital sovereignty”

Until last summer, argrad TV, which saw itself as the Russian orthodox response to Fox News, was a vague corner of YouTube.

The Russian-language online news channel was best known for its conspiracy theorists to conspire against Moscow over the global financial system. Suspicions were confirmed last July when Google’s streaming service seized the channel on its own claim. Violation of US sanctions.

Tsargrad is now ready to retaliate after a significant court ruling that could jeopardize Google’s entire Russian business as Moscow strengthens its efforts to force Western tech companies to obey its laws.

Last month, a Moscow court ordered Google to reinstate Tsargrad’s YouTube channel worldwide on the grounds that the ban unjustly discriminated against its owner, Konstantin Malofe.

Malofe has been under US and EU sanctions since 2014 over ties to Russian-backed separatists in Ukraine. But he told FT that YouTube continued to pay Tsgrad for about $ 10,000 a month in advertising revenue for years before the ban.

Google appealed the ruling on May 19, and if it loses, it will face a court-imposed daily fine that could rise to Rbs94tn ($ 1.28 tonne) by the end of the year, which is close to the $ 1.53 tonne market. the capitalization of its mother alphabet.

YouTube said on Friday. “Google is committed to complying with applicable sanctions and trade compliance laws. If we find that the account violates these laws, we will take appropriate action. ”

“I am not going to suffer in Russia as a Russian citizen, because idiots in America depend on stupid things. That is why I am defending my rights in accordance with Russian law, “Malofe said in an interview with FT last week.

“If American Internet platforms can not comply with Russian law, then maybe there is nothing else for them in Russia. It is their decision, “he said, speaking at the emp ogragrad office, which was surrounded by imperial decorations reminiscent of the Russian Empire.

Moscow is increasingly seeing its so-called “digital sovereignty” control come at a time when foreign Internet giants are controlling the flow of Russian personal data that the Kremlin fears could be used to spy on its intelligence services or to stage protests.

This year, President Vladimir Putin warned that forcing foreign companies to comply with Russian law was “very important” so that society would not “collapse from within.”

Google և YouTube are the biggest targets. Arrested opposition activist Alexei Navalny, Putin’s most prominent opponent, has more subscribers on YouTube than any other Russian state television station, mobilizing them to hold mass rallies.

Tsargrad Studio. The TV channel has become a powerful vehicle for Russia’s conservative edges © Tsargrad TV / YouTube

Russia uses a number of tools to counter technology groups. In the spring, censors installed new technologies from Russia’s “sovereign Internet”, essentially a parallel web running on the country’s servers. slow down Twitter According to him, in order not to delete 3,168 posts, illegal activities are encouraged.

Roscomnadzor, an internet censor, said this week that it would not ban Twitter after the site deleted most of the controversial posts, but promised to take similar measures against YouTube and Facebook if they did not comply with local laws.

Russia’s antitrust watchdog is also investigating Google over what it called a “non-transparent, non-objective, unpredictable” policy to block YouTube.

Gazprom, Russia’s state-owned gas monopoly, has relaunched its local YouTube clown RuTube, launched Russia’s TikTok-style YaMolodets program late last year, and plans to make them reliable competitors.

Tsargrad owner Konstantin Malofe told FT: “I am defending my rights under Russian law.” © Gavriil Grigorov / TASS via Getty Images

Their audience is a part enjoyed by their foreign counterparts. But another new law requiring smartphone makers to pre-install Russian-made apps on home-made phones could drive users astray, said Andrei Soldatov, a non-resident member of the Center for European Policy Analysis.

“They decided to go the Chinese route and start analogies of all these services,” said Soldatov, co-author of a book on Russia’s attempts to control the Internet. “Now they really have the technological capabilities to attack global platforms, to slow them down, to do a lot of disgusting things.”

Russia has previously threatened to ban foreign social networks. The blocking of Microsoft-owned LinkedIn in 2016 failed to intimidate Silicon Valley into complying with Russian data on banned data տեղ localization. Instead, companies found to be in breach of Russian law were happy to pay the small fines levied.

Roscomnadzor lifted its ban on Telegram in 2018, two years after its founder in Dubai, Pavel Durov, found ways to avoid the blockade.

“They were fighting on their own. Nobody helped. “The entire presidential administration was running on Telegram phones,” said German Klimenko, a former adviser to Putin on the Internet.

After Putin made changes in the Russian constitution Last year, Moscow had more legal weapons at its disposal. One amendment confirms the supremacy of Russian law over foreign courts when jurisdictions clash.

The law further required internationally sanctioned businesses to use Russian courts to settle foreign disputes. Another threat was punished for “censorship” of Russian media outlets after the host of the popular pro-Kremlin talk show և RT claimed that YouTube had taken their videos. And the law introduced on Friday will allow Russia to ban Internet companies that refuse to open local offices.

Klimenko said that the new regulations will force Internet companies to comply with Russian legislation or leave the market, adding: “It’s not about collecting fines.”

Otherwise, they could create a separate version of their website in Russia, he said. “If you want to become an international channel, please follow our rules. If you do not want to, then you can do whatever you want, կլինի will be your Russian IP [banned]»

Tsargrad itself is a relative detail. Its online subscribers reached nearly 1 million before YouTube took it. But Malofe, who has long advocated greater state control over Russia’s Internet, has made it a powerful tool for Russia’s conservative side.

Smartphone manufacturers are now required by law to pre-install Russian-made slate on state-of-the-art phones. © Kirill Kudryavts և / AFP Getty Images

The Kremlin seeks to weaken far-right patriotism through Malofe’s allies, who will run in the September parliamentary elections.

Malofe, who has strong ties to far-right figures in Europe and the United States, said he hoped the victory in the Argrad court would inspire conservatives in the West.

After the hearing, he wrote a letter to Donald Trump urging the former US president, who is banned from Twitter on Facebook, to sue US tech companies for censorship in Russian courts, “to partner with us in building platforms for future free speech.” ,

“People from California can not set rules in Russia,” he said. “If they do not allow me to return, then there is nothing damn good they can do here.”

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