YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki won’t say definitively whether the company took down material from leading Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny at the request of Russian President Vladimir Putin ahead of the country’s elections.
In an interview with Bloomberg, Wojcicki said the company upheld "freedom of speech" as a core value.
"One of the things that’s important to us at YouTube is the fact that we do enable so many voices and that we do enable people to express themselves and really celebrate the freedom of speech," Wojcicki said.
However, she qualified that YouTube has to take many things into consideration when working with foreign governments.
Both Apple and YouTube’s parent company Google have both been accused of "political censorship" after the companies removed an app created by Navalny under pressure from the Kremlin.
The app had encouraged Russians to vote for opposition candidates who were most likely to defeat members of Putin’s ruling party. It disappeared from the company’s stores Sept. 17, the same day as the country’s parliamentary elections.
The Kremlin had argued that refusing to remove the apps would be considered foreign interference in Russian elections.
Navalny accused "the almighty Big Tech" of bending the knee to the Kremlin.
"The giants Apple and Google have complied with the Kremlin’s demands and removed our app from their stores," wrote Navalny in a Twitter thread. "My beloved YouTube has deleted our video, and the Telegram messenger has blocked our bot."
"These programs, which Putin calls ‘extremist’, only contained information about opposition candidates in your constituency," he said. "By law and common sense, each of us has the right to campaign for voting (or not voting) for any candidate."
Asked whether YouTube deleted Navalny’s videos at the request of the Russian government, Wojcicki evaded answering directly.
"We certainly get requests from governments, and we look and consider why are we getting the request? What’s actually happening on the ground? And based on a whole bunch of different factors, we make a decision," Wojcicki said. "Those are not always requests that make sense for us to honor but in certain cases, we will honor them in that country."
Fox Business has reached out to Wojcicki for additional comment and will update this story accordingly.