Under Russian pressure to remove content, Instagram complies but YouTube holds off

Instagram has taken down content posted by Russian opposition leader Aleksei Navalny under pressure from a government agency, while YouTube has yet to do so. Navalny and others have criticized Instagram for complying to what they call a politically motivated move to silence him.

The issue is around a video accusing a Russian official, deputy prime minister Sergei Prikhodko, of accepting a bribe from prominent businessman Oleg Deripaska — in the form of a trip on a yacht populated with upscale escorts. It uses footage posted to Instagram (and later removed) by one of the alleged escorts.

Deripaska sued in a local court, which turned around and ordered that the material be removed web-wide, recruiting the Russian communications regulator Roskomnadzor to enforce the order. The deadline was yesterday.

Among the sites and services complying with the order to remove the content in question is Instagram, which upon doing so was the target of swift rebuke from Navalny and his supporters.

I’ve asked both YouTube and Instagram for comment on their actions (or future actions). Facebook confirmed to the BBC that it had complied with the regulator’s order, but did not offer any more than a blanket statement regarding how it handles government content take-down requests.

In addition to the Instagram and YouTube posts, the Russian court ordered that Navalny’s own website be blocked, after he refused to take down the content in question. He and his supporters consider this a blatant attempt to silence him ahead of next month’s election, of which Navalny was organizing a boycott.