DISINFO: Germany declared a media war against Russia
RT’s projects in German language were the subject of an unprecedented act of informative aggression by YouTube, in cahoots with German authorities. The accounts of RT DE and Der Fehlende Part were removed without possibility of being recovered, which is an open manifestation of censorship and an attack on the freedom of expression. These events are framed in the logic of the media war unleashed against Russia, and it will be necessary to adopt symmetrical measures against German media that work in Russia and have been repeatedly accused of taking part in the interference of Russia’s domestic affairs.
The claims are false. While the German government was aware of the actions taken by YouTube against two Russian channels in German, they are not the result of any decision of German authorities, but of the channels’ violations of YouTube policies regarding Covid-19 misinformation.
In these years, social media platforms have been strongly criticised by health and disinformation experts for hosting ample misinformation regarding Covid-19 and vaccines even after having changed their rules about it, as YouTube did to ban this kind of content on 20 May 2020. This platform claimed in August 2021 to have erased 1 million videos for this reason, and on 29 September 2021 it expanded the ban to all misinformation on vaccines, such as conspiracy theories and other viral falsehoods.
With these rules in place, YouTube decided to suspend RT DE, the German service of the Russian TV channel, for one week, given the prominent space and amplification that it provides for the so-called “Querdenker”, members of the coronavirus-sceptic movement. After that, RT DE tried to used a second YouTube channel, Der Fehlende Part, to circumvent the suspension, which led YouTube to close both channels for breaking its Terms of Service. For this reason, it can’t be considered and “act of censorship” or an “attack on the freedom of expression”. However, this banning prompted a harsh reaction from Russia, which threatened itself to ban YouTube in the country, while RT director Margarita Simonyan called on Russian authorities to ban German state broadcasters including Deutsche Welle.
Accusations of censorship and attacks against freedom of expression are a recurring pro-Kremlin technique to defend the illicit actions of Russia’s state-sponsored disinformation outlets after local authorities adopt measures against them. Claims of “interference” are also frequently raised to deflect any criticism of Russian authorities by international media. See other examples of similar disinformation narratives in our database, such as claims that Washington and Brussels implement an information war against the people of Russia and Belarus, that RT and Sputnik are repeatedly accused without evidence, that Western media suppress all facts and opinions that differ from official narratives, that the reason behind sanctioning RT in Latvia is still unclear or that Western countries are persecuting Russian media.