YouTube, Twitch deal with a sudden surge of Russia-Ukraine content

The news: As the Russia-Ukraine conflict rages on, video platforms like Twitch and YouTube have seen a deluge of content related to the crisis gain popularity, raising concerns about accuracy, brand safety, and relationships with Russian organizations subject to international sanctions, per The Information.

More on this: The last few years have seen a meteoric rise in the popularity of political commentary on Twitch.

  • One streamer in particular, left-wing commentator Hasan Piker, is among the most popular on the platform, regularly pulling in viewers in the tens of thousands. One of Piker’s streams Wednesday covering the Ukraine conflict has over 1.7 million views at the time of writing.
  • While the popularity of politics on Twitch means more eyeballs for its ad partners, figures like Piker are the counterparts to the clean cut, professional presentation of a typical cable news commentator. Political streamers lean directly into the culture of Twitch, which often includes incendiary commentary and public drama between personalities.
  • Piker recently apologized for and took down videos in which he claimed that Russia would never invade Ukraine and dismissed US State Department information as unreliable.

YouTube’s twofold problem: YouTube, on the other hand, faces both the issues of moderating content with false information and navigating thorny business deals with Russian media organizations who are now subject to sanctions, per Bloomberg.

  • YouTube is an extremely popular platform for pro-Russia and state-controlled media, including figures like political commentator Vladimir Solovyov and state-backed news outlet Russia Today, which have over 1 million and 4.1 million subscribers, respectively. These channels and others like them run pre-roll ads.
  • Google has faced criticism at home and abroad for its relationships with Russian media. Last year, the platform followed a Russian government order to remove content from its critics. The Russian government also imposed heavy fines on YouTube after it removed content from a sanctioned ally.

Looking forward: Video platforms have become a major resource for those looking to communicate about and stay updated on global breaking news events, but their responses to the sudden surge of Ukrainian videos shows they still have a long way to go to reel in misinformation and handle advertising tied to such content.