Just days after Russian authorities slapped Google with a multi-billion-Ruble fine for hosting YouTube videos critical of Russia’s invasion in Ukraine, Moscow’s sympathizers in Ukraine are going after the company’s flagship search engine. On Friday morning, the Ukrainian cities Donetsk and Luhansk announced they’d be banning Google Search across the entire Eastern region of the country, occupied by Russian forces, for allegedly promoting “terrorism and violence against all Russians.”
Denis Pushilin—head of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR), which broke away from Ukraine in 2014—announced the ban via his Telegram account on Friday.
“The inhuman propaganda of Ukraine and the West has long crossed all boundaries,” Pushilin wrote. “There is a real persecution of Russians, the imposition of lies and disinformation. At the forefront of information technology in this regard is the Google search engine.”
It’s worth noting that this isn’t the first hardline stance DPR’s taken against a tech company; in May, the territory banned citizens’ access to Facebook and Instagram on the grounds that both platforms “allowed calls for violence against Russian-speaking users.” This move followed Russia’s own ban on Facebook and Instagram for similar reasons—the social networks were allowing death threats against Vladimir Putin and Russian military leaders—back in March.
Referring to Google’s ban, Pushilin wrote on Friday the the DPR is simply doing “what they do in any society with criminals,” and “isolating” the platform from the people.
“If Google stops pursuing its criminal policy and returns to the mainstream of law, morality and common sense, there will be no obstacles for its work,” he went on. Notably, Pushilin offered neither evidence to back up his claims nor concrete ways Google could comply with his demands.
If DPR is technologically able to pull this ban off, it would mark a new and more aggressive step in the territory’s digital bans and the ones instituted by Russia since the start of this year, which have largely targeted social media thus far. It’s possible Moscow is providing digital infrastructure for the crackdown as it provides supplies and weapons to Donetsk. We previously noted that despite issuing bans on Twitter and Meta’s various platforms, the most Russia had done against Google and its subsidiary YouTube was issue some fines and plunge the company’s Russian wing into bankruptcy. Some experts believe YouTube is too technologically sophisticated to recreate on Russian soil and has no immediate replacement, unlike American social networks, which have competitors and analogues in Russia like VK.
We’ve contacted Google for comment about the ban.