Maksut Shadayev, Russia's Digital Development, Communications and Mass Media Minister (file photo)
The Russian minister overseeing digital communications says the government has no plans to block the video sharing platform YouTube despite threats to do so over parent company Alphabet Inc's failure to delete content Moscow has deemed illegal.
Speaking at an education event in Moscow on May 17, minister of digital development, communications and mass media, Maksut Shadayev, said "Russia must remain part of the global network," though it must "learn to filter information" in the Internet.
"We do not plan to ban YouTube. First of all, when we restrict something, we must clearly understand that our users do not suffer... A ban is an extreme move that can be only possible, to my understanding, when we have a competitive alternative," he said.
Last month, Russia's media watchdog, Roskomnadzor, openly accused YouTube of "spreading fake news" about Russia's unprovoked invasion of Ukraine.
In March, Roskomnadzor demanded Alphabet stop the spread of videos on its YouTube platform that it said were "threatening Russian citizens."
Shadayev said Russia "must build up barriers to avoid too much pressure on Internet users."
Days after Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine on February 24, Roskomnadzor ordered media across the country to publish information about the war in Ukraine only if it is provided by official sources.
It also has forbidden describing what several Western nations have called an "unjustified and unprovoked" attack on Ukraine as an invasion or a war, instead insisting it be called a "special military operation."
Over the past year, Russia has tightented the screws on opposition voices, forcing the closure of most independent media outlets and limiting the free flow of information.
On March 4, Roskomnadzor blocked Facebook, claiming the world's largest social-media platform was discriminating against Russian media and information resources such as RT, RIA Novosti, and Sputnik.
A day later, President Vladimir Putin signed a law that calls for lengthy prison terms for distributing "deliberately false information" about Russian military operations as the Kremlin seeks to control the narrative about its war in Ukraine.
The law envisages sentences of up to 10 years in prison for individuals convicted of an offense, while the penalty for the distribution of "deliberately false information" about the Russian army that leads to "serious consequences" is 15 years in prison.
It also makes it illegal "to make calls against the use of Russian troops to protect the interests of Russia" or "for discrediting such use" with a penalty possible of up to three years in prison. The same provision applies to calls for sanctions against Russia.
Multiple websites of RFE/RL, BBC, and other independent media outlets have been blocked over what Russian regulators claim is erroneous reporting.
Some Russian journalists have left Russia after their companies had to stop or suspend operations following the criminalization of the coverage of the war in Ukraine.
Several have since started up their own streams on YouTube to cover and discuss the ongoing war.