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YouTube Accused of Censorship After Coming Under Russian Pressure

16 February 2018

Russia's media watchdog on Thursday (Feb 15) blocked the website of opposition leader Alexei Navalny after he posted a video alleging a deputy prime minister enjoyed lavish hospitality from a billionaire tycoon.

Unless the videos are removed voluntarily, either by YouTube, Instagram or Navalny, Russian internet providers may be forced to block the social media platforms. "The site could still be opened through some of the network providers, but it's a matter of time", Navalny wrote on Telegram.

Navalny said he found the video footage on the Instagram account and YouTube channel of the young "VIP escort", Anastasia Vashukevich, who goes by the name Nastya Rybka. As the immediate result of Deripaska's lawsuit, Roskomnadzor, Russia's communications regulator, added the postings of the video to its list of banned Web pages.

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In the video, Navalny says, "An oligarch takes a top government official on a ride on his own yacht-that's a bribe".

The Guardian writes that Navalny claims Deripaska "was briefing Prikhodko on information on the 2016 USA presidential campaign that he had received from Paul Manafort, the former Trump campaign manager", although he offers no proof of this.

Navalny has suggested that he is being targeted due to his calls to boycott the 2018 presidential election, which he calls rigged for Putin. He also quoted from her book "A Journal: How to Seduce a Billionaire" - in which, according to Navalny, Rybka refers to Deripaska as "Ruslan" and Prikhodko as "Papa".

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Roskomnadzor, the Russian media watchdog, warned YouTube to take down seven videos and Instagram to remove 14 posts on Saturday (February 10) within three business days.

Roskomnadzor announced around midday on February 14 that "nearly 30 resources" had deleted Navalny's video from their sites.

Navalny's LiveJournal blog was blocked in March 2014 along with a number of opposition news websites after demonstrations in Moscow against Russia's annexation of the Crimean peninsula from Ukraine.

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Instagram and YouTube may be blocked in Russian Federation unless they remove videos allegedly showing the Deputy Prime Minister meeting an oligarch with links to Donald Trump's presidential campaign on a luxury yacht. Prikhodko said the issue would have to be settled "man to man", and Deripaska accused Navalny of trying to ruin his reputation. Navalny refused and appealed the ruling. It said Instagram had complied with a similar request to take down related material and that it was waiting for Google to delete a YouTube video. According to the businessman's spokesperson, the plaintiffs violated Deripaska's privacy. "This content was spotlighted by our corruption investigation".

YouTube Accused of Censorship After Coming Under Russian Pressure