Internet users from Russia's Far East sigh with relief as a regional court has at last lifted a ban on YouTube, which had been blocked for allegedly promoting extremist ideology.
Judges from a higher court altered the controversial ruling and listed particular pages with “extremist materials” that have to be blocked instead of the whole resource.
The ban, imposed in July by a district court, made local Internet providers block access to a range of web libraries which happened to contain Adolf Hitler’s “Mein Kampf.” As for YouTube, the site ended up as “potentially dangerous resource” because of the video “Russia for Russians” uploaded by its users.
The radical decision shocked the public. The Novy Region news agency reports that some bloggers even argued that by blocking YouTube, the authorities had implicitly labeled “extremist” Russia’s President Dmitry Medvedev, whose video blog was regularly posted on the site.
“The district court’s decision was right and legal,” local prosecutor Vladimir Pakhomov was quoted as saying by Vostok-Media news agency. “Russia’s Ministry of Justice has published a list of more than 100 books and videos regarded as extremist. Their distribution by any means is forbidden.”
Local providers argue that censuring the information on websites is beyond their responsibility.
“I’m like a postman. I have nothing to do with the newspapers I’m carrying to different people,” the head of a local Internet service provider was quoted as saying by Kommersant newspaper. “The judges should address those who own YouTube. But the thing is that Google is far away, and we are here, on the next street.”
Local media, however, say that the court decision does not change anything. The sites could simply relocate the listed files, which would already make hosting them legal.
Thus, another attempt to introduce Internet censure has failed. Although in March 2010 Reporters Without Borders listed Russia among potential “enemies of the Internet,” so far the country has firmly held its ground. It is worth adding that despite multiple attempts to close down a popular file sharing website, Torrents.Ru, the resource is functioning under a different name and is gradually regaining its popularity.