Russia’s Tsargrad TV ends talks with Google over blocking YouTube

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Tsargrad TV, a news channel owned by a sanctioned Russian businessman, said it cut off talks with Google to unblock his YouTube account and on Monday accused the US company of hesitating negotiations.

Google is the subject of a Moscow court order requiring it to unblock the YouTube account of Tsargrad TV, a Christian Orthodox channel owned by Konstantin Malofeev that is under US and EU financial sanctions. However, it appealed the judgment in May.

The appeal hearing should take place on Monday, but has now been postponed to September 20, announced both parties. Tsargrad TV said the postponement should give the court more time to familiarize itself with new documents submitted by Google.

The dispute with YouTube is one of several cases in which US tech and social media giants have drawn the wrath of the Russian state. Russia has fined Google and others for failing to delete content it deems illegal, as well as for other crimes, including failing to locate user data.

Tsargrad TV on Monday said Google’s lawyers would not engage in constructive talks. “There was a feeling that Google was deliberately lengthening every negotiation process and stretching its feet,” it said in a statement.

In response to a request for comment, Google (part of Alphabet) merely announced that the hearing had been postponed to September 20.

Tsargrad TV said YouTube suspended its account in July 2020 for no reason. Google at the time said it had a policy to freeze accounts that violate sanctions or trade restrictions.

In April, the Moscow Arbitration Court said Google must restore Tsargrad’s account or pay a daily fine of RUB 100,000 (about 1 lakh), which would double every week if Google failed to comply. These fines have not yet been imposed by the time the appeal proceedings have been concluded.

Malofeev was placed under US and EU sanctions in 2014 for accusing of funding pro-Moscow separatists fighting in Ukraine, which he denies. Russia considers such Western sanctions to be illegal.

© Thomson Reuters 2021

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