YouTube Chief Executive Officer Susan Wojcicki dodged whether the digital media company took down material belonging to Alexei Navalny, a prominent critic of President Vladimir Putin, at the request of the Russian government in an interview with Bloomberg on Sunday.
The site removed a number of Navalny’s videos, while Google, YouTube’s parent company, and Apple, pulled a voting app promoted by his supporters ahead of the Russian general election, The New York Times reported.
“One of the things that’s important to us at YouTube is the fact that we do enable so many voices and that we do enable people to express themselves and really celebrate the freedom of speech,” Wojcicki told Bloomberg.
“But when we work with governments, there are many things that we have to take in consideration, whether it’s local laws or what’s happening on the ground,” she added. “So there’s always going to be multiple considerations.”
Russia banned parties linked to Navalny in June, labeling them “extremist,” and officials reportedly threatened to prosecute Google’s employees, a person familiar with the matter told the NYT.
(1/14) If something surprised me in the latest elections, it was not how Putin forged the results, but how obediently the almighty Big Tech turned into his accomplices.
— Alexey Navalny (@navalny) September 23, 2021
Navalny tweeted that the “almighty Big Tech” was being subservient to Putin by caving to his demands. “The giants Apple and Google have complied with the Kremlin’s demands and removed our app from their stores. My beloved YouTube has deleted our video, and the Telegram messenger has blocked our bot,” he wrote.
“One of the modern challenges is that false prophets now come to us not in sheep’s clothing, but in hoodies and stretched jeans. Standing in front of the huge screens, they tell us about ‘making the world a better place’, but on the inside they are liars and hypocrites,” Navalny added.
Wojcicki also dodged a question as to whether YouTube might leave Russia, as it did with China in 2010. “I think we really want to make sure that we’re working and serving audiences as much as we possibly can,” she told Bloomberg.
“And if it comes to a point where there’s an issue with the government, we’ll do our best always to work that out,” she added.
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