A court in Komsomolsk-on-Amur, Russia has demanded a Russian ISP block access to YouTube because the site hosted ‘Russia for Russians,’ which was judged to be an extremist video.
The court’s decision also applies to the Internet Archive and three online libraries, Lib.rus.ec, Thelib.ru and Zhurnal.ru, all of which were found to host writings by Adolf Hitler.
With this ruling, Russian authorities join a long list of governments that have blocked access to YouTube (YouTube) at some point or another, including China, Brazil, Indonesia, Iran, Morocco, Pakistan, Tunisia, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Thailand and the United Arab Emirates. YouTube material has also been censored in the U.S. and U.K.
Generally, these bans are instituted because the videos on the popular hosting site show something a government would rather its citizens not see, from state police brutality at a protest to unflattering depictions of its leadership to ‘immoral’ or sexual content.
However, this particular ruling stems less from a desire to protect a country’s internal PR and more from a desire to keep Russian media — including citizen-generated and social media — free from the possibly harmful influences of ultranationalist, racist and xenophobic speech. The phrase ‘Russia for Russians’ itself is a slogan of hatred used against the multi-ethnic society that exists in Russia today, and searching for the phrase ‘Россия для русских’ on YouTube will return a number of disturbing videos typical of the white nationalist movement around the world.
But intentions aside, this ruling still constitutes what many other governments would consider a prohibition or restriction of free speech.
The owner of Rosnet, the ISP affected by today’s decision, is Aleksandr Ermakov. He spoke to media today, saying essentially that the court had thrown the baby out with the bathwater.
‘All of mankind is using this website. And providers like ours do not violate Russian law. But we are still being forced to close the website so that our users can not log on and watch the videos. This is absurd! According to this logic, we have to demolish all buildings that have swastikas on the walls. Or when two people are discussing a bomb over the phone, we have to take away the phones from all people across Russia.’
More on Rosnet’s legal position can be found at this website.
Moreover, a Google (Google) rep told the Moscow Times, ‘To limit access of Rosnet users to the whole YouTube.com site, not to a particular video, breaches the right for freedom of information, guaranteed by Article 29 of Russia’s Constitution.’