Google’s video-sharing site, YouTube, challenges a Russian federal agency’s ban on one of the videos hosted on the website. The litigation is meant to clarify the effects of a law some Russian IT companies find could lead to Internet censorship.
YouTube vs. Rospotrebnadzor
YouTube filed a lawsuit against consumer protection and public health and safety agency Rospotrebnadzor. The filing was made in a Moscow court after the Russian federal agency. Prior to this, the agency prevented Russians from watching a video that shows how to create a theatrical make-up effect. The said clip demonstrates how a blunted razor, glue, and fake blood can make a razor blade appear as if it’s actually sticking out of someone’s wrist. Although this could be a useful trick for Halloween, the consumer regulator sees it as an instruction video on how to commit suicide.
In response to this, YouTube decided to block the video in Russia rather than risking the whole site from being blocked in the country. However, they decided to sue Rospotrebnadzor to clarify the boundaries of the legislation used to block the video. In a statement emailed by a Google spokesman to PC World:
While we support the greatest access to information possible, 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.
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.
The Questionable Amendments of the Russian Internet Law
The law in question was adopted by the upper house of the Russian Parliament the Federation Council of Russia, in July. It made a number of amendments to existing laws, making it easier to block sites that host child pornography, promote drugs, or provide instructions about how to commit suicide. These changes also include the development of mechanisms for the immediate removal of Web pages that contain such prohibited materials in Russia.
The said amendments were met with great criticism from the Russian Internet industry. That’s because the law allows the blocking of websites through IP and DNS blockades. These blockades leave the opportunity to blacklist whole domains where only part of the hosted content is illegal.