Video-sharing platform YouTube has deleted two German-language channels managed by Russia’s state-owned media company RT, prompting Moscow to blast the company for "censorship" and vow retaliation.
U.S. tech giant Google, which owns YouTube, said it deleted RT DE and Der Fehlende Part (The Missing Part) on September 28 because the channels had published what it called “misinformation” about COVID-19 and vaccines.
Google said it warned RT DE that it was violating its rules and temporarily blocked its ability to publish.
"YouTube has always had clear community guidelines that outline what is allowed on the platform," a spokesperson for Alphabet Inc., the parent company of YouTube, said.
When RT tried to evade the ban by publishing the material on Der Fehlende Part, it deleted both of them, the spokesperson added.
Russia immediately condemned the move, with Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov accusing YouTube of "censorship," while the Foreign Ministry said it would request governmental agencies take retaliatory measures against YouTube and German media outlets against an "unprecedented act of media aggression."
"Considering the nature of the incident, which is fully in line with the logic of the information warfare unleashed against Russia, taking retaliatory symmetrical measures against the German media in Russia would seem not just an appropriate, but also a necessary thing to do,” the ministry said in a statement.
The United States and Europe have previously accused Russia of spreading false information about COVID-19 and vaccines.
A spokesman for the German government said Berlin played no part in the decision to ban the channels.
But RT Editor in Chief Margarita Simonyan criticized YouTube’s decision and called on the Russian government to ban German state media in Russia.
"Having considered an RT request for protection against discrimination, it was resolved to file a request to relevant agencies of the Russian Federation with a proposal to draft and enforce retaliatory measures against YouTube and the German media," the statement added.
Russian media regulator Roskomnadzor also threatened to restrict access to YouTube in Russia, saying it had sent a letter to YouTube's owners "demanding that all restrictions be lifted" from the two channels -- RT DE and Der Fehlende Part -- "as soon as possible."
Launched in 2005 as Russia Today, state-funded RT has continually expanded, with broadcasts and websites in languages including English, French, Spanish, and Arabic.
It has generated controversy in many countries, including the United States, where it was required to register as a "foreign agent," and in Britain, where authorities have threatened to revoke its broadcasting license.
The channel has been banned in several countries, including the former Soviet republics of Lithuania and Latvia.
RT offers videos online in German but has yet to obtain a license to broadcast in the country using terrestrial or satellite signals.
Luxembourg last month refused to grant a license for RT to broadcast a German-language channel from the country because its operations were largely based in Germany.