YouTube ads of Alexei Navalny, an outspoken critic of Russian president Vladimir Putin have been removed by Google in view of elections being held for regional governors in the country. These were videos of Mr Navalny asking Russian public to take active part in public protests against increasing the retirement age of politicians. While Navalny’s aides and supporters have said that this act amounts to “political censorship”, Google has defended the move saying that advertisers have to adhere to national laws. It had been asked by Russian officials in August to remove the advertisements as they were considered illegal in view of local rules enforced around elections that forbid campaigning within 48 hours of polls.
Google issued a public statement that it took the decision to remove the YouTube adverts after considering appeals from state bodies and their own policies. Demonstrations were held on 9th Sept in Russia to protest against increase in retirement age from 60 to 65 for men and from 55 to 60 for women which was the same day on which elections for regional governors were also being held. This policy has negatively affected President Putin’s ratings by nearly 15 percent as families in small towns and rural areas are living off pensions while youngsters are struggling to find steady jobs.
While the demonstrations led to arrests of around 800 protestors some of who were beaten, people were detained in several Russian cities including St. Petersburg. Though Mr. Navalny was scheduled to lead the Moscow protest, he was sentenced to 30 days custody for breaking public demonstration laws. But he strongly denied these charges and stated that the arrest was an attempt to put an end to his political campaign. This is not the first time that Google has removed political advertisements as it has carried out a similar exercise when Ireland was preparing to vote for a referendum on abortion laws.
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