Google took down a series of YouTube ads for Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny before a vote for regional governors on Sunday and amid protests over President Vladimir Putin’s plans to raise the retirement age for state pensions, the Guardian reported.
Navalny’s team is obviously condemning YouTube for the decision, with aide Leonid Volkov calling it a “clear case of political censorship.” For its part, Google is saying the company’s hands were tied by local law requiring all campaigning to cease for 24 hours before an election. The Guardian wrote:
Russian officials sent a letter to Google last month asking it to block Navalny’s videos because it said they were illegal under the country’s election laws, which bar political campaigning 24 hours before elections.
Google confirmed it had pulled the videos. “We consider all justified appeals from state bodies. We also require advertisers to act in accordance with the local law and our advertising policies,” the company told the Guardian.
Volkov accused Russian officials of pulling one over on Google, saying “The rallies do not have anything to do with the elections,” and that the order was illegal. He characterized it as the first time Google has cooperated with Russian authorities’ demands for censorship of the opposition movement to Putin.