Google’s YouTube, Facebook and Twitter: the Kremlin’s not-so-happy helpers?

Managers at YouTube are troubled by the prolific use of the video-streaming site by RT, a Russian state news organization officially considered in the U.S. to be a propaganda arm of the Russian government, according to a new report.

“There is definitely a lot of hand-wringing, but there’s also a lot of, ‘We have to protect this speech,’” a former employee told the Wall Street Journal.

It’s not just Google’s video platform that’s been protecting and promoting the speech of the Russian government — Facebook and Twitter, along with YouTube, are RT’s primary distributors of content, the WSJ reported Tuesday.

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U.S. intelligence officials have claimed Russia relied heavily on RT (formerly Russia Today) in alleged attempts to influence the presidential election that lifted Donald Trump to power. RT denies the allegations.

The Russian outlet has racked up some stunning numbers on YouTube, with 2.1 billion views on its main English-language channel and 2.2 million subscribers, “roughly the same figures as CNN’s primary YouTube channel,” according to the WSJ.

“RT has drawn an additional 3.3 billion views across roughly 20 other channels, making it among YouTube’s most-watched news networks.”

By running ads before RT videos, YouTube gives ad-revenue money to the Russian government news outlet, the WSJ observed.

The Russian outlet has about 2.7 million followers on Twitter, which last month pointed at RT in a report on claimed Russian election-interference, and the company has said the outlet spent about $275,000 promoting tweets to U.S. users. RT also has some 4.5 million followers on Facebook.

“RT’s popularity on YouTube, Facebook and Twitter shows how the open approach of social-media companies can empower unreliable news sources — from government-backed propaganda outlets to conspiracy theorists to extremist groups,” the WSJ reported.

“While the companies ban harassment, hate speech, the promotion of violence and other unsavory posts, they tend to allow unreliable, misleading and highly partisan content, as well as other content that falls in a gray area, in an effort to avoid accusations of censorship and to protect users’ free speech.”

YouTube, in a statement to the WSJ, said it removed videos that violate its policies.

“We have a wide variety of news channels available on YouTube that represent an array of viewpoints from across the political spectrum,” the company said.

Facebook and Twitter declined to comment to the WSJ.

 

Photo: A  YouTube logo on Dec. 4, 2012 (Eric Piermont/AFP/Getty Images)

 

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