Russia Complains That YouTube Aids Protesters

Police arrest a protester in Moscow on Saturday. (Evgeny Feldman, Meduza via AP)

MOSCOW (AP) — Russia’s media oversight agency said Sunday that it wanted Google to stop YouTube users from posting information about unsanctioned political protests or the Russian government would feel free to retaliate against the American company.

The Federal Service for Supervision in the Sphere of Telecom, Information Technologies and Mass Communication, or Roskomnadzor, communicated the demand after weeks of protests against manipulation of Moscow’s city council election.

Tens of thousands participated in a fourth consecutive weekend protest of the exclusion of some independent and opposition candidates from the election ballot, according to police and an organization that counts attendance at public meetings.

Russian police block a subway entrance during a protest in Moscow on Saturday. (AP photo)

Unlike demonstrations held the previous two weeks, when police made more than 1,000 arrests at each, organizers had a permit for Saturday’s event. More than 200 people were arrested Saturday after some rally participants moved the protest from its sanctioned spot into the heart of Moscow.

Roskomnadzor said Sunday it complained to Google in a letter about unspecified “structures” with YouTube channels using their accounts with the video sharing site to send push notifications about unsanctioned gatherings, “including those aimed at damaging federal and regional elections.”

YouTube is a Google subsidiary. If the internet company based in California doesn’t address the issue, Russia would have the right to retaliate, the agency said in a statement.

“In the event of Google not taking reactive measures, the Russian Federation will consider this as interference in the sovereign affairs of state and also as hostile and hindering to the conduction of democratic elections in Russia and will reserve for itself the right to adequate response,”  Roskomnadzor said in its letter.

The determined opposition to candidates being disqualified for the Moscow election appears to have unsettled Russian authorities.

The sanctioned demonstration on Saturday attracted an estimated crowd of more than 50,000 people, the largest turnout at a Moscow protest in years. Smaller rallies were held in several other cities.

Russia has adopted a series of measures to increase control over the internet in recent years.

A law enacted this year requires routing of internet traffic through Russian servers, a move that critics say could lead to a firewall similar to a system in China that blocks political content and prevents Chinese users from using sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Google.

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