YouTube is facing demands from the Ministry of Defence to remove hoax videos featuring Defence Secretary Ben Wallace or risk helping the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
The calls came after a third extract of a hoax call between Mr Wallace and an imposter posing as Ukrainian prime minister Denys Shmyhal was published on Wednesday.
The MoD says the clips have been “doctored” to aid disinformation and “propaganda” at the behest of the Kremlin, as it struggles in the war.
But the footage has remained on the video sharing giant owned by Google since Monday when the first video extract emerged, despite the attempts of officials to get them blocked or pulled down.
The MoD wrote to YouTube saying that the apparently altered clips wrongly claim British-supplied Nlaw anti-tank missiles have failed and falsely suggest the UK is running out of its own supplies.
We are calling on YouTube to help us support Ukraine by taking down videos doctored by the Russian state and disseminated to try and sap the morale of a people fighting for their freedom 🇺🇦
— Ministry of Defence 🇬🇧 (@DefenceHQ) March 23, 2022
“Any perceived failure of our lethal aid supplied to support Ukraine will provide an immediate detrimental effect upon the morale of Ukrainian forces mounting resistance to Russian aggression and create another chapter in the Kremlin’s playbook of disinformation and lies,” the letter reads.
It says that the “modified and edited clips” risk being used by Vladimir Putin’s Russian state as a premise for more attacks breaching international law and to “inflict further human rights abuses”.
The letter adds: “I am confident you would not wish to be a conduit for Russian propaganda or be in any way associated with the potential consequences of this time of media manipulation.”
Saying the “Russian state was responsible for the hoax call”, the letter insists “you remove (or at least block) access to the videos”.
Officials fear further videos may emerge during the emergency Nato summit on Ukraine on Thursday, with Home Secretary Priti Patel also targeted and more touted from Mr Wallace
A defence source said: “YouTube is in danger of aiding and abetting the Russian state propaganda machine, putting people at risk.”
YouTube declined to say whether it would be removing the videos.
A spokeswoman said: “We are taking extraordinary measures to stop the spread of misinformation and disrupt disinformation campaigns online.
“Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine began, we have taken a number of actions including blocking access to all channels associated with Russian state-funded media, globally.
“We’ve also removed more than 1,000 channels and over 15,000 videos for violating our Community Guidelines, and our systems are continuing to surface authoritative news content in search results for queries about Russia and Ukraine.”