YouTube, Facebook, TikTok… Platforms block RT

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YouTube avait annoncé des mesures samedi pour interdire la publicité sur RT notamment.

Posted Feb 28 2022 at 01:25 PMUpdated on March 1, 2022 at 9:12 p.m.

The tech giants are going to war. Several platforms have announced that they have blocked or limited Russian media, in particular RT (Russia Today), even before formal announcements from the European Commission to disconnect RT.

Latest: YouTube. “Given the ongoing war in Ukraine, we are blocking RT and Sputnik’s YouTube channels across Europe, with immediate effect,” the video platform, a subsidiary of Google (Alphabet), announced on Tuesday morning. in an email. “Our systems require a little time to be fully operational,” the group said, however.

A big step up from Saturday’s announcements where YouTube clarified that RT’s channels globally could no longer have advertising and their visibility would be reduced.

Crucially, in the past 24 hours, most major social networks and tech companies have made similar announcements.

Thus, on Monday evening, Meta (Facebook) indicated that it was going to restrict access to RT and Sputnik on its platforms in the European Union. “We have received requests from several governments and the European Union to take further action regarding Russian state-controlled media,” wrote Nick Clegg, vice president of Meta, on his Twitter account. He justified the suspension by “the exceptional nature” of the situation.

Twitter, for its part, had indicated a little earlier that tweets containing information from media controlled by the Russian authorities would now be accompanied by a specific label and that their visibility would be reduced.

Each tweet containing a link to a media close to the Russian government will be added the mention “this tweet links to the site of a media affiliated with the Russian government”. Insufficient, according to Cédric O, Secretary of State for the Digital Transition. “Simply warning messages in the current situation is ridiculous and indecent,” he tweeted.

As for Microsoft, it has also announced its intention to remove RT from its application store and to modify the algorithm of its Bing search engine to move RT and Sputnik content back in the order of results.

The first to have launched the machine is the social network specializing in short videos TikTok, which on Monday had removed the accounts of RT and Sputnik in Europe. RT has 16,000 subscribers.

The pressure was growing on the American giants, both from Europe and from different countries in recent days.

The pressure has intensified

On Sunday, Brussels announced that it would ban RT and Sputnik from the European Union. “We are going to ban the Kremlin’s media machine in the EU. State media Russia Today and Sputnik, and their affiliates, will no longer be able to broadcast their lies to justify Putin’s war and to sow division in our Union. We are therefore developing tools to ban their toxic and harmful disinformation in Europe,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said at the time.

The tools in question were specified on Tuesday evening. The permanent representatives of the 27 in Brussels have, in fact, reached an agreement on a regulation imposing and framing the measure. The text was the subject of a written adoption procedure on Tuesday evening with a view to publication in the European Official Journal on Wednesday morning, with immediate effect.

Thierry Breton, European Commissioner for the Internal Market, had indicated earlier on RTL that the banishment of the two Russian media, “whatever their distribution channel”, would take place shortly.

“We are under the sanctions regime, it is under this regime that we will implement this ban,” he said, relying on a “Council regulation” of 2014.

The tech giants have taken the lead on more specific announcements. Even if some were initially quite hesitant. “We cannot remove a whole section of content on a simple request”, said a good expert on a platform on Monday afternoon.

Meetings with Thierry Breton and Cédric O

It seems that the repeated appeals of the Commission, its members and the governments have obliged them to take their responsibilities.

Thierry Breton spoke Sunday evening with Sundar Pichai, the general manager of Alphabet (Google), and Susan Wojcicki, the director of YouTube, to ask them to take measures to counter misinformation from accounts linked to the Russian state. and to implement the sanctions already taken by the European Union. “Freedom of expression does not cover war propaganda,” he said.

At the same time, a meeting took place on Monday between the major platforms (Google, Facebook, Snap, Twitter, etc.) and Cédric O, Secretary of State for Digital Affairs, to see what possible measures are possible upstream of the details of the European sanctions.

RT denounces this blocking of social networks, in particular YouTube, described as “a pure and simple act of censorship, without legal justification”, indicates a spokesperson. “RT has never failed in its obligations. Banning media or attacking journalists has never resolved a conflict and this censorship sets a dangerous precedent”.

Sputnik France, for its part, indicated that it remained accessible on Telegram.

Crucial visibility

The visibility of RT on social networks is crucial. In France, although the television audience is undoubtedly low – it is not communicated – insofar as the channel is broadcast mainly on Free and Canal, RT has managed to find a place for itself on social networks: it has more 1.1 million subscribers on YouTube and around 1.2 million on Facebook.

It remains to be seen what the possible retaliatory measures of Moscow will be…

Concern for the 176 employees of RT France

The 176 employees of the channel, including 100 journalists, do not really know what tomorrow will bring. “Everyone is wondering: will there be technical unemployment? A social plan? How can the Commission ban a channel? “, relates an employee. “It’s hard to be singled out when we do our job,” adds another. And all the more so as some have been threatened, in particular the president of RT France Xenia Fedorova. RT said he would file a complaint for death threats, hate messages and insults. Pending the ban announced by the European Commission, the channel continued to broadcast on Monday and the employees were at their posts. A meeting with management is scheduled to answer their questions. The SNJ (National Union of Journalists) provided some form of support for the editorial staff: “Taking on journalists, expelling them, banning the channels or newspapers in which they work constitutes, whatever the intentions displayed, a act of censorship which reduces the pluralism of information. It’s never the right answer.

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