A prominent Russian human rights organisation, OVD-Info, has received a notice from YouTube threatening to block access in Russia to one of its video channels. The channel, Kak Teper (What’s Going On), features news and interviews related to the war in Ukraine and has approximately 100,000 subscribers.

OVD-Info, an independent network monitoring protests, reported receiving an email from YouTube in early May. The email stated that the Russian communications regulator, Roskomnadzor, had flagged content on the channel as violating a law on information technology. Screenshots shared with Reuters showed YouTube’s message, which warned, “If you do not remove the content, Google may be required to block it.” The specific legal violation was not detailed.

The channel often includes interviews with Russian opposition figures and political news segments discussing the war. Dmitrii Anisimov, a spokesperson for OVD-Info, said, “We are consulting with YouTube and Google and trying to explain that the demand to block our channel is an act of political censorship.” He noted that the group’s other YouTube channel remained unaffected.

YouTube, which is owned by Alphabet Inc., did not respond to inquiries regarding its discussions with OVD-Info. However, a YouTube spokesperson did confirm that videos from three other opposition channels, which provided information on evading Russian military service, were deleted but later reinstated after media coverage.

Google withdrew from Russia following its invasion of Ukraine, ceasing all advertising sales and pulling its staff. Despite this, Russia has refrained from blocking YouTube entirely, though it has fined the platform several times for not removing content deemed illegal by Moscow. YouTube remains one of the few Western social media platforms still accessible in Russia, with tens of millions of monthly users.

Natalia Krapiva, tech legal counsel at the global digital rights non-profit Access Now, emphasised the significance of OVD-Info’s potential ban. “We will not have any YouTube to fight for anymore if all the civil society is blocked there,” she said in a phone interview, highlighting the broader implications for free speech and independent media in Russia.