Posted 6 февраля 2022,, 23:02

Published 6 февраля 2022,, 23:02

Modified 24 декабря 2022,, 22:38

Updated 24 декабря 2022,, 22:38

Is it possible to disable Youtube in Russia, and what may come of it

Is it possible to disable Youtube in Russia, and what may come of it

6 февраля 2022, 23:02
After the ban on broadcasting of the German channel Deutsche Welle as a response to the expulsion of RT from the German media market and the threats of the Russian authorities that situation with Deutsche Welle is not the end yet, talks about banning Youtube in Russia resumed again.

Novye Izvestia discussed with experts whether this is possible and what will come of it.

Yelena Ivanova, Natalia Seibil

The clouds in the Russian information firmament were gathering over Google's video hosting for several years in a row, but it was "fucked" not by YouTube, but by the German "Deutsche Welle", moreover, unexpectedly for everyone, including the victims. Prior to this, the channel had not been attacked by either Roskomnadzor or other government agencies. After the retribution for "our" RT befell the "Wave", the talk about turning off the main enemy of Roskomnadzor, YouTube, became louder. Telegram channels write that Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev and the Russian Foreign Ministry are lobbying for the shutdown of the video platform.

There is an example in Russia when the hand of Roskomnadzor did not waver, and the Linked I n social network was blocked. But this is LinkedIn, because of which the defenders of Internet freedom shouted and cried and calmed down. With YouTube, it's different.

To date, 59% of Russians use video hosting. It is inhabited by countless businesses, and everyone is paid by the platform. If the authorities decide to turn the switch, millions of citizens for whom YouTube has already replaced the TV will be deprived. That is why there are many doubts about this action.

A technical possibility to disable Youtube does exist

It is one thing to make a political decision to block online services, another thing is a technical possibility, says Yury Khokhlov, chairman of the board of directors of the Institute for the Development of the Information Society:

- There is a technical possibility, and there will be no problems with it. Before our eyes are examples of online platforms that did not comply with the requirements of the legislation on the localization of personal data in Russia and were blocked, we do not have access to them. It was implemented, - the expert says.

Starting in January 2021, Roskomnadzor has two laws on the basis of which YouTube in Russia may stop working. The first law on "landing" - the storage and processing of user data in Russia - was adopted earlier. Google ignores it - at least for now. In order to disable the service under the second law, nothing depends on the corporation itself - the Russian authorities can disable any platform and any media if they consider that Russian media are offended in the countries where these services came from.

When Telegram got into trouble, the whole country watched as Roskomnadzor (Federal Service for Supervision in the Sphere of Telecom, Information Technologies and Mass Communications) tried to turn off the messenger. Dozens of VPNs immediately appeared, with the help of which everyone who wanted to have Telegram, including the Russian elite, could freely use it. Now VPN owners are also required to go through the same landing procedure, but, as experts say, you can’t keep track of everyone.

You can't do that with YouTube.

Yaroslav Gorodetsky, CEO of CDNvideo, explains: “Video hosting, unlike a messenger, generates huge amounts of traffic that are easy for telecom operators to track and block”.

It is clear that YouTube will not run away from Roskomnadzor and play hide and seek with it. And the regulator itself does not want to sit in a puddle for the second time, as with Telegram. Therefore, those discussing the fate of the platform in Russia are right in one respect - the decision on it will be made at the highest level, and its fate will be determined based on the political moment.

YouTube and freedom of speech in Russia

Shutting down YouTube is a big step. At the same time, it is almost inevitable, says political scientist Dmitry Oreshkin. An alternative information network is being formed on this resource, which draws in the television audience. Financial resource is opposed to energy and talent. It can be said without great exaggeration that one annual budget of RT, for whose honor the current media war has unfolded, will more than cover all the costs of independent bloggers who work on YouTube:

- One YouTuber is tens of thousands of times cheaper than professional TV people do, managed to make films that are watched by tens and hundreds of millions of people. I mean Navalny, but there is also Dud, there are Pivovarov, who, due to their propensity for freedom, which a talented person gravitates towards, simply beat them, and it is impossible to defeat them. What can be done? You can tear them off, cut them off, block their network in which they exist.

However, blocking is a very risky move. In addition to the bloggers themselves, when the platform is disabled, tens of millions of users will lose their natural habitat. Someone will lose bread, and most of the circuses.

Post-Internet expert and art dealer Anton Merkulov invites everyone to just imagine that it is now a lunch break, and YouTube is no longer working:

- A million children, teenagers and adults have taken out their gadgets and are watching something - how to cook dinner, cartoons, Dud's interview. These people are busy consuming information. There are millions of them. Now imagine - they are deprived of it. Where do people end up after this? Outside! Any person - a saleswoman in a store, a janitor on the street, a mother with a child on the site - everyone watches YouTube. And if they get in the way...

Dmitry Oreshkin agrees with him.

- The temptation to close is intensifying, and I can well imagine that the authorities will succumb to this temptation. The consequences will be significant, but unpredictable. It's just that it's unlikely to be swallowed. If the country more or less safely swallowed the ban on going out, a hundred thousand came out, a hundred thousand did not come out. Nothing special, the sky does not fall to the ground. Here we are talking about tens of millions of people, and this is quite risky , he believes.

Media expert Ivan Zasursky believes that the Russian authorities use the threat to shut down YouTube as an element of blackmail in the context of the situation with Ukraine:

- This is such a cunning war in which we are on the side of China, we rely on their technology and in a sense sacrifice our security in order to be more protected in the situation with America. But I do not think that in the near future it may come to the shutdown of YouTube.

Hopes that in the event of a platform shutdown, users will return to TV are illusory. Generation Z does not sit on YouTube anyway, says Yuri Khokhlov, they use TikTok, Instagram and similar services. With the development of video in messengers, young people will find replacements everywhere.

Whether YouTube will be blocked in Russia, no one can say now.

- I cannot decide for the Government of the Russian Federation and the departments that are responsible for this. Such a decision will not be easy to make. One can only imagine what another cry will be raised about the infringement and attack on democracy in Russia. Few people react to such statements, but nevertheless, they take into account. If such a decision is worked out, then all circumstances will be weighed , - says Yuri Khokhlov.

YouTube and business - forever together

“Other circumstances” are millions more people who earn their living. In addition to entertainment, YouTube pays the content creator. If it is turned off, then a huge number of creative, creative people will be left without money - because no one else is paying them. The shutdown will hit, first of all, small, absolutely apolitical bloggers, reminds Dmitry Oreshkin:

- This system will set against itself a large number of people who are used to making money on YouTube with stories about how to lay brickwork, how to raise dogs, how to knit hats. Yes, this is a serious blow to those who built this for themselves, this is a shot in the leg. I think that the Kremlin underestimates the economic component.

Those who play with the idea of “cutting down” YouTube don’t think about any cooks or bouquet makers. If such a moment comes, all the damage will be borne by the people themselves. They don't even get compensation. Alexandra Orekhovich, director for legal initiatives at the Internet Initiatives Development Fund, is sure that bloggers will not get anything:

- As a rule, the decision of a state body, state circumstances are prescribed by the parties in force majeure circumstances, for which none of the parties is responsible. Accordingly, the losses are borne by the party that suffered these losses. These are business processes. As a rule, this is so.

Political analyst Yekaterina Shulman considers the shutdown of the platform an extremely unlikely event. Just because it's technically and physically possible doesn't mean it will happen, she says. We need to talk about something else - the state will try to take taxes from the income that is received on YouTube. It is the money that people earn there that is the subject of greedy state interest:

- On the one hand, this is money from which one wants to take taxes, on the other hand, it is to some extent financial freedom, for example, for journalists, which can make them potentially independent from state control. This is some kind of alternative employer that is not controlled by the Russian Federation.

In the case of YouTube, the people and the party are not united

Not a single person went out for Deutsche Welle in Russia, so this act of intimidation achieved its goal - abroad. The "Western partners" of the Russian president flinched, but it will not cause any consequences.

The fact of the matter is that YouTube, paradoxical as it may sound, is still an internal story. It is akin to the latest speeches about QR codes, although not quite. The people's indignation at the imposed restrictions coincided with the interests of a part of the elite, which is why the regional authorities bombarded the federal center not to introduce codes. In Moscow, they already understood that the new restrictions were a blow to the economy, and everything was not going well with it anyway, so they let it go under the brakes to talk about social protests. If we consider it from the point of view of users of video content, then we can agree with Dmitry Oreshkin that in the case of YouTube, “the people and the party”, but there are, citizens and elites are not at all united:

- I absolutely do not expect a consolidated performance of the lower level of the nomenklatura. It will be a purely civil protest, but you can sneeze at it. Here the rallies will be spontaneous, it will be easier to disperse them and more difficult to assemble them.

Anton Merkulov believes that the people will not forgive the government for turning off the most popular platform:

- I believe that if you block YouTube, it will lead to a catastrophe of biblical proportions. All will rise. Thank you very much YouTube, we are all busy with what we see in it and watch endless videos, and do not do anything else.