thursday, 14 february of 2013

Google challenges Russia YouTube video ban


Google challenges Russia YouTube video ban

Google has filed an appeal with a Russian court challenging the country's inclusion of a YouTube video on an official blacklist.

The clip shows a woman using make-up and a razor blade to make it appear that she has cut one of her wrists.

A Russian watchdog banned it on the grounds it provided information about how to commit suicide.

Google indicated it wished to use the example as a test case to help clarify the blacklist's rules.

Moscow introduced an amendment to its Information Act in November allowing sites to be taken offline in order to protect children.

Had Google not taken down the offending clip in Russia it could have faced local internet service providers (ISPs) blocking the whole of its YouTube site.

The video remains accessible in other countries.

Entertainment defence

The clip was originally uploaded on 18 January 2012 by Russia-based user SNEG0VA. It had been viewed fewer than 7,500 times when the blacklist came into effect. News of its deletion was revealed by the Russian newspaper Vedomosti.

"We will, at times, restrict content on country-specific domains where a nation's laws require it or if content is found to violate our community guidelines," said a YouTube spokeswoman.

"In this case, we have appealed the decision of Russian Consumer Watchdog because we do not believe that the goal of the law was to limit access to videos that are clearly intended to entertain viewers."

Roscomnadzor (Federal Service for Supervision in Telecommunications, Information Technology and Mass Communications) - the agency in charge of running the blacklist - confirmed that the clip had been flagged by a second watchdog Rospotrebnadzor (Federal Service for Control in the Sphere of Protection Consumers' Rights and Well-Being of Humans) .

Russia's rules state that material can be banned for including any one of three kinds of forbidden material.

Rospotrebnadzor makes rulings about suicide and drugs while Roscomnadzor decides whether items featuring items relating to child sex abuse should be banned.

"The company [Google] fulfilled all requirements of the law (delete the video) and now it is necessary to wait for judgement results," Roscomnadzor spokesman V Pikov told the BBC.

The clip is not the only one Google has blocked on YouTube in Russia, but a spokeswoman for the US firm was unable to say how many videos it had hidden.

Censorship fears

The creation of the Russian blacklist has caused controversy.

Human rights groups have said it might increase censorship since sites can be forced offline without a trial.

The list is meant to be updated daily, and users can check if a site is banned via an online search tool.

The Russian version of Wikipedia, search engine Yandex and social network Vkontakte all protested against its creation warning that it posed a risk of "extra-judicial censorship".

Activists have subsequently raised concerns that LJRossia - a blogging platform "created to support freedom of speech" - was recently added following allegations that two posts on it had contained "child pornography elements".

Other sites associated with the net's subculture, including a Russian version of discussion and image post website 4chan, have also been targeted.

The Russian government has stressed that the aim of the law is not to enforce censorship, but rather to protect children.

(Published by BBC News - February 13, 2013)

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