Russia's media oversight agency complains YouTube facilitates protests

Russian Internet Watchdog Urges YouTube to Refrain From Promoting Unauthorised Rallies

Russia's media regulator has asked internet giant Google to delete videos of anti-government protests and arrests in Moscow from its platform YouTube.

Tens of thousands of people on Saturday staged what observers called the country's biggest political protest in years, defying a crackdown to demand free elections for the legislature of the capital, Moscow.

The Federal Service for Supervision in the Sphere of Telecom, Information Technologies and Mass Communication, or Roskomnadzor, communicated the demand after weeks of rallies over Moscow's city council election.

Hundreds of people later gathered in more central parts of the city, prompting police to detain more than 250 people, according to the independent watchdog OVD-Info.

Moscow hasn't seen demonstrations of this scale since numerous marches between 2011 and 2013, when police largely stood idly by, allowing activists to rally against election fraud in a 2011 parliamentary vote and a 2012 poll that re-elected Mr. Putin to the presidency after four years as prime minister. In contrast to the protests on previous weekends, the authorities had approved this rally.

According to the telecom watchdog, "some structures" were buying YouTube advertising tools (push notifications) with the goal of disseminating information about unauthorized events aimed at disrupting elections at various levels across Russian Federation.

Roscomnadzor said it had written to Google to complain that "some entities" had paid for advertising tools on YouTube such as push notifications in order to "spread information about unsanctioned protests".

The Russian watchdog said that if Google failed to respond to its request, it would consider it "interference in its sovereign affairs" and "hostile influence [over] and obstruction of democratic elections in Russia".

There was no immediate comment from Google.

It wasn't the first time Google's come under pressure from Roscomnadzor - it reportedly tweaked its search results in Russian Federation to remove blacklisted websites earlier this year, after being threatened with fines if it failed to do so.

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