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U.S. and Canada-based video platform Rumble is shutting down in France after refusing the European nation’s demand that it block pro-Russian news sources, according to its CEO.
Rumble, founded in 2013 as a free-speech alternative to YouTube, where conservatives often find themselves censored, said it would rather not operate in France than submit to the administration of French President Emmanuel Macron’s demands it censor pro-Russian content from sites including RT France and Sputnik. Rumble CEO Chris Pavlovski said the company will challenge the decision in court.
“The French Government has demanded that Rumble block Russian news sources,” Pavlovski said Wednesday. “Like Elon Musk, I won’t move our goal posts for any foreign government. Rumble will turn off France entirely (France isn’t material to us) and we will challenge the legality of this demand.”
Rumble will turn off France entirely (France isn't material to us) and we will challenge the legality of this demand. https://t.co/a4Nn4S1MMf
— Chris Pavlovski (@chrispavlovski) November 1, 2022
Pavlovski’s mention of Musk, the new owner of Twitter, referenced the billionaire’s refusal in March to block Russian news sources from his Starlink satellite internet service, which he provides free for Ukraine amid its invasion by Russia.
European nations have attempted to silence any pro-Russian news sources amid the war, which began in February. RT, the Moscow-controlled television network previously known as Russia Today, was essentially purged from western nations in the wake of the invasion. The European Union and Canada all banned the network, and it shut down U.S. production after major U.S.-based social media platforms blocked its content, cable and streaming services dropped its programming, and Apple and Microsoft removed its app from their offerings.
While RT France and Sputnik were already banned from airing on television or online in France and elsewhere in the EU, they got around the sanctions by putting their content on social media platforms not based in the European Union.
Macron recently acknowledged the difficulties in blocking RT and Sputnik from French viewers.
“We’re using the informational weapon and Russia was doing it even before by spreading propaganda on social networks, through propaganda channels that we have cut off on our soil but still continue to find channels to broadcast,” Macron said in an interview with France 2.
Rumble, which trades on the NASDAQ and is both a video platform and a cloud services provider, describes itself as “immune to cancel culture” and is part of a growing network of conservative-backed social media companies cropping up in the face of Leftist intolerance that dominates platforms such as Facebook, YouTube, and at least until Musk’s takeover, Twitter. A recent bombshell report by the liberal news site The Intercept uncovered how Facebook and Twitter have worked closely with federal agencies to silence mostly conservative viewpoints subjectively deemed “misinformation.”
Free-speech purists object to censoring news and information simply because it is deemed propaganda by western nations. In addition to the “slippery slope” argument, they advocate countering what some see as objectionable perspectives with reason, rather than government or even private censorship.
In March, Musk told the EU he would not block news sources from Starlink.
“Starlink has been told by some governments (not Ukraine) to block Russian news sources,” Musk wrote. “We will not do so unless at gunpoint. Sorry to be a free speech absolutist.”