YouTube Must Globally Remove RT and Sputnik to Halt the Spread of Russian Disinformation (Letter)

Change the Terms Coalition
3 min readMar 10, 2022

March 10, 2022

Dear YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki,

As the world watches Russian President Vladimir Putin’s brutal and deadly invasion of Ukraine in horror, the Change the Terms coalition is urging YouTube to take immediate action to end the spread of Russian propaganda through its platform. Change the Terms is made up of dozens of civil society organizations that have been working together for five years to reduce online harms from hate and disinformation.

Putin has justified his war against a sovereign and independent democracy by spreading lies and disinformation to a global audience. Russian-funded and directed media outlets Russia Today (RT) and Sputnik are two of the major avenues through which the Putin regime spreads this disinformation. As the U.S. Department of State has said, RT and Sputnik are critical elements in Russia’s disinformation and propaganda ecosystem. Beyond justifying his actions in Ukraine, the disinformation and hate these channels spread clearly leads to offline harm and contributes to threats against democracies everywhere.

These channels have also distributed content about white supremacist groups. One example is RT videos of multiple events by General Identity (GI). GI is a transnational white supremacist groups whose propaganda, in particular the “Great Replacement” conspiracy theory, has inspired multiple terrorist attacks, including at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pa., and the Christchurch, N.Z. mosque attacks.

Unless YouTube takes immediate action, it will continue to be complicit in this war by allowing for the spread of dangerous disinformation. These channels should come down in the U.S. and across the globe in all languages, as they have in the European Union.

RT has 4.71 million YouTube subscribers and, through a paid ad on YouTube’s site, boasts that it is the “most watched news outlet on YouTube,” with more than 10 billion views. While Sputnik has fewer YouTube subscribers (376,000), it also pays YouTube for ad placement, and actively spreads lies and propaganda through its platform.

The best way for YouTube to protect its users, stop the spread of Russian propaganda, and ultimately stop fueling this war, is for the company to globally remove RT and Sputnik. This is the only way to stop the spread of state-sponsored disinformation on your platform.

YouTube has failed even to take preliminary steps. Despite a news announcement in late February that YouTube was going to stop allowing RT and Sputnik to make money off ads on their channels, as of March 8 YouTube continues to allow RT and Sputnik to run their own ads on their channels. Nor does YouTube label all state-sponsored disinformation as Meta has recently done.

The time, however, for preliminary steps is over. YouTube must completely and globally deplatform RT and Sputnik News.

This shouldn’t be a hard decision. We understand that deplatforming these channels will require you to put your global responsibility to humanity before your billion dollars in annual profits.

Please do the right thing.


The Change the Terms Coalition

Jessica González
Change the Terms Co-Chair
Co-CEO, Free Press

Heidi Beirich, PhD
Change the Terms Co-Chair
Chief Strategy Officer & Co-Founder, Global Project Against Hate and Extremism

Adam Conner
Change the Terms Co-Chair
VP of Technology Policy, Center for American Progress

Change the Terms is a coalition of dozens of civil rights, human rights, technology policy and consumer protection organizations that are working to ensure that tech companies do more to combat hateful conduct and disinformation on their platforms.



Change the Terms Coalition

We believe that tech companies need to do more to combat hateful conduct on their platforms.