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Russia tells Google to stop promoting Moscow protests on YouTube

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Russia tells Google to stop promoting Moscow protests on YouTube
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REUTERS
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Russia’s state communications watchdog has called on Google to stop promoting “illegal mass events” on YouTube following renewed protests in Moscow.

Several YouTube channels broadcast live as tens of thousands of Muscovites took to the streets calling for free elections to the city’s legislature on Sunday.

The latest round of protests, estimated to be the largest in eight years, follows the exclusion of opposition and independent candidates from the city council’s elections.

A group that monitors public meetings and mass protests in Russia, Beliy Schetchik, said it counted around 50,000 people at the demonstration but Russian police put the figure closer to 20,000.

It is the fourth consecutive weekend of protests against the decision and dozens were arrested including rejected city council candidate Lyubov Sobol.

Read more: What protests? Putin rides with Night Wolves bikers in Crimea

The watchdog, Roscomandzor, said organisations had been buying advertising tools such as push notifications on the video platform to spread information about the protests.

It said if Google, which owns YouTube, did not act it would consider it as “interference in its sovereign affairs” and “hostile influence (over) and obstruction of democratic elections in Russia”.

Over the past five years Russia has introduced tougher laws requiring search engines to delete results and messaging services to share encryption keys with security services.

In late 2018, Russia fined Google 500,000 roubles (€6,831) for failing to comply with a legal requirement to remove certain entries from its search results.

Earlier that year, Google removed a YouTube advert by Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny after authorities complained that the videos violated a law prohibiting campaigning ahead of a vote for regional governors.