How does YouTube help spread pro-Russian propaganda in Poland — study
The risk of disinformation on YouTube in Poland is rather low compared to Ukraine, however there are still gray areas and vulnerabilities within the platform itself. Texty.org.ua has conducted the study which reveals that people in Poland watch YouTube primarily for entertainment, not for political news, exploring why videos with anti-Ukrainian and pro-Russian narratives can still be popular in Poland. AIN.Capital shares the key details.
YouTube is a platform for entertainment, not political news
The investigation reveals that in Poland, YouTube is used less frequently than in Ukraine for news consumption. Polish audiences primarily use subscription-type media (online media, television, or streaming platforms) for news and political talk shows.
For example, Polsat News, a news channel that is part of the extensive digital multi-channel television network Polsat Network, has a nearly inactive YouTube channel with 117,000 subscribers, with the last update being three months ago. Another example is the news channel TVN24. It is available on various digital platforms and cable television. The official YouTube channel of TVN24 has only about 90 videos.
Anti-Ukrainian and pro-Russian propaganda in Polish YouTube
Nevertheless, if a user watches videos with anti-Ukrainian and pro-Russian narratives, the recommendation algorithms generally offer many new videos with similar narratives.
While none of the 50 largest Polish YouTube channels in December, operate in the “News and Politics” category, still, one of the main source for disseminating various political narratives is bloggers:
- One of the examples is Dziki Trener (“Wild Coach”). Today, the blogger uses his platform to express stances on current socio-political issues in Poland. His content, promoted by YouTube itself, suggests videos like “Poles Are Easily Influenced,” “Ukrainian Gratitude,” or “Polish-Ukrainian Friendship.”
- Another example is Wojciech Cejrowski, a Polish journalist and satirist. Cejrowski’s videos have sometimes justified Putin’s decision to start the war, blaming Poland and Western countries. Before the full-scale invasion, he propagated views like “Putin’s goal is Ukraine, but Biden’s goal is war.”
- One of such examples is also the ultranationalist channel Media Narodowe (“National Media”) by Polish nationalist Robert Bonkiewicz, which has repeatedly disseminated Russian propaganda narratives and broadcasted hate speech against Ukrainians and Jews.
According to the study, YouTube continues to promote similar ultranationalist videos, classifying them under “News and Politics,” “Blogs,” and “Education” categories.
Three key factors of EU’s fight against disinformation on YouTube:
Despite the existence of anti-Ukrainian and narrative bubble, Poland is quite protected from the pro-Russian propaganda thanks to the EU laws against disinformation.
- Firstly, YouTube users in Poland are significantly more protected from Russian disinformation than Ukrainians, because they don’t consume content in Russian.
- Secondly, YouTube does respond to complaints from civic organizations fighting against hate speech and calls for violence.
- The third level of protection against disinformation is the EU’s moderation policies on YouTube, which require large platforms and search engines to strictly monitor posted content including propaganda.
While YouTube algorithms still let some of the Russian propaganda through, the EU’s moderation policies are one of the most effective methods of pressuring such social platforms into limiting the access to it.