Russia wages online battle against TikTok and YouTube

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“I’m an American!” a young Russian under the username Neurolera exclaims in English on the popular video-sharing app TikTok as she explains how to impersonate a tourist to avoid arrest at a street demonstration.

Her video – published ahead of rallies planned in support of jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny – has been viewed more than 500,000 times while videos demanding Navalny’s release garnered hundreds of millions of views on the platform.

In Russia, where state-controlled media outlets co-exist in stark contrast with online platforms popular among the opposition, authorities have ramped up efforts to contain and even replace sites that are seen as a threat.

YouTube has become the primary source of news for many young Russians. The videos of web star Yuri Dud, known for his interviews with celebrities, or anti-graft campaigner Navalny are enjoying more and more success.

Soon after Navalny’s arrest, his team published a two-hour investigation into a lavish palace on the Black Sea allegedly belonging to Russian President Vladimir Putin. The video has been viewed more than 60 million times on YouTube since its publication on Tuesday.