Russian court blocks YouTube and other sites

In a recent update from Global Voices writer Gregory Asmolov and an article[RUS] from CNews, it appears that there has been a regional court ordered blockage of YouTube in a far eastern segment of Russia.

In total, a Prosecutor for the city of Komsomolsk-na-Amure sought 5 websites to be blocked by court order on the local ISP, ROSNET.

Although the ISP used a “common carrier” argument, saying that the sites themselves were not responsible for the content created or uploaded by their users (a la section 230 of the CDA here in the US ), the court ruled in favor of the Prosecutor and forced the ISP to block the sites. Allegedly, the first four mentioned sites had copies of “Mein Kampf” and on YouTube the video “Russia for Russians”. The court considered all of these materials to be “extremist materials” and thus ordered the IP blocks to prevent access. Further note that the fourth listed site is the popular “WayBack Machine” that simply caches older versions of websites in a library database.

While the Russian government has engaged in some small-scale censorship activities in recent years, mostly citing “extremist materials” as being the target of their censorship or filtration orders, this ruling has to be one of their most naive and messy attempts at keeping content out of citizens’ hands. None of the sites were specifically hosting the targeted materials for overall political poignancy, but rather each site has a large amount (vast majority of data) that is in no way subject to the Russian classification of “extremist materials”. By blocking these sites, substantial quantities of free expression have been hindered.

If you are in Russia and want to help spread the word, go to our reporter for Russia and test out the websites. You can also report to use via Twitter @herdictreport.

About the Author: Alex Fayette

Alex is a Junior at Yale University who is currently an intern with the Berkman Center for Internet and Society @ Harvard Law School. His focus this summer is with and also with other Berkman projects falling under the Freedom of Expression umbrella. He is majoring in Economics and Physics, and loves singing and aviation on the side.

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