Google Suspends Ad Sales in Russia, Including on YouTube, State-Funded Publisher Sites

By Katabella Roberts
Katabella Roberts
Katabella Roberts
Katabella Roberts is a reporter currently based in Turkey. She covers news and business for The Epoch Times, focusing primarily on the United States.
March 4, 2022 Updated: March 4, 2022

Google has suspended selling of all online advertising in Russia, including on its YouTube platform, the company said on Thursday.

“In light of the extraordinary circumstances, we’re pausing Google ads in Russia,” Google said in a statement to The Wrap. “The situation is evolving quickly, and we will continue to share updates when appropriate.”

The spokesperson said the suspension applies to Russian state-funded publisher sites, apps, YouTube channels, and advertisers.

The Epoch Times has contacted a Google spokesperson for comment.

Earlier this week, Google moved to block content from Russian state-funded media outlets RT and Sputnik across Europe.

The company said in a statement that it was blocking YouTube channels connected to the two media outlets in the EU, effective immediately, due to the ongoing situation in Ukraine.

“This builds on our indefinite pause of monetization of Russian state-funded media across our platforms, meaning media outlets such as RT are not allowed to monetize their content or advertise on our platforms,” the company said in a blog post.

Prior to that, Google barred both RT and Sputnik, as well as several other Russian channels from earning money for ads on their websites, apps, and YouTube videos, in line with recent EU sanctions.

It also added a Sensitive Event update that blocks ads related to the conflict. The update aims to “provide a safe advertising ecosystem” during events with “significant social, cultural, or political impact, such as civil emergencies, natural disasters, public health emergencies, terrorism and related activities, conflict, or mass acts of violence.

“Effective immediately, due to an ongoing sensitive event (the war in Ukraine), we are pausing ads from and for Russian Federation state-funded media,” the company said in the update.

Google’s other services, such as maps and YouTube remain available in Russia and continue to “provide access to global information and perspectives,” the company said.

The Wall Street Journal reported earlier on Thursday that the Russian communications watchdog Roskomnadzor had “demanded that Google stop showing online-video ads it described as ‘false political information’ about Ukraine” that aimed “to misinform the Russian audience” about the events taking place in the country.

The watchdog reportedly claimed that Google’s YouTube video service was “running large advertising campaigns to misinform the Russian audience” which it said were “aimed at creating a distorted perception of current events” and fueling protests, according to the publication.

Thousands of people have been arrested in Russia in recent days for protesting against President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of neighboring Ukraine.

On Wednesday, the deputy head of Roskomnadzor, Vadim Subbotin, said that Russia is considering amending its legislation to allow it the watchdog to block Google if it fails to comply with domestic internet law.

“The current law does not stipulate blocking [Google], it stipulates handing out an administrative fine” Zharov was cited as saying by Russian news agency Interfax.

“But you understand that if we reach a dead end, then at the legislative level we have every opportunity to resolve this issue. If the state sees that some foreign company is not complying with Russian legislation consistently and systematically, then the state amends the law, and for non-compliance with Russian laws, a more severe punishment is possible—such as blocking,” Subbotin said.

The Russian regulator’s alleged demand is part of the Kremlin’s wider crackdown on what it deems as “unofficial” reporting of the invasion of Ukraine.

On Friday, the country’s parliament will meet in a special session to consider legalizing a bill that would make such reporting a crime that is punishable by up to 15 years in prison.

Katabella Roberts is a reporter currently based in Turkey. She covers news and business for The Epoch Times, focusing primarily on the United States.