YouTube Music may be banned in Russia

Photo credit: Eyestetix Studio

YouTube is currently at risk of being banned in Russia as tensions between US companies and Russia rise. Naturally, YouTube Music would also be caught in the backwash.

Google has shut down its advertising business in Russia, but YouTube is still available, at least for now. YouTube recently banned a channel from the Russian Ministry of Defense, which caused tensions with the Kremlin. YouTube also blocked the Russian military from using the platform after calling the invasion of Ukraine a “liberation mission” in two videos.

“Our policies prohibit content that denies, minimizes or trivializes well-documented violent events, including Russia’s invasion of Ukraine,” YouTube said in an emailed statement. Google’s office in Russia continues to operate, but its staff has been moved in recent weeks. A Google spokesperson declined to comment on its office in Russia.

Since the start of the invasion of Ukraine, the independent press inside Russia has been limited. Russia has banned Facebook and Instagram, two services operated by Mark Zuckerberg’s Meta Platforms Inc. Putin’s government has labeled US social media companies “extremist organizations”, making their exploitation a criminal offense in Russia. Twitter hasn’t been outright labeled extremist in Russia, but its performance has been strangled.

Google and YouTube seem to remain intact in Russia for now. Despite the risk of being banned, YouTube remains a popular destination for Russians to watch videos online. Google also outranks the local Russian search engine, Yandex NV.

YouTube said on March 11 that it had removed more than 1,000 channels related to the invasion of Ukraine and pro-Russian content. Last Friday, Russian media regulator Roskomnadzor accused YouTube of running ads calling for the sabotage of railways in Russia and Belarus. The agency said the ads “clearly demonstrate Google’s anti-Russian stance, and that the company’s behavior was ‘terrorist in nature.'”

According to Russian state-backed news agency RIA Novosti, YouTube could be banned in Russia this week. A Google employee bulletin in Russia obtained by Bloomberg News says the company is “working around the clock to provide expert security and safety.” Russian YouTube creators no longer receive advertising revenue from their videos, likely due to the withdrawal of payment processors such as Visa and Mastercard from Russia.

Of course, none of this bodes well for YouTube Music in Russia. It’s unclear how many paid YouTube Music subscribers exist in Russia, though payments are likely blocked.

More than that grows.

Victor L. Jones