Russia stands firm on porn websites ban
AFP, , Thursday 15 Sep 2016

Russia on Thursday stood firm after slapping a ban on two major porn websites -- rebuffing a tongue-in-cheek proposal to change its mind in exchange for premium access.

On Tuesday, Russia's communications watchdog blocked widely-watched sites Pornhub and YouPorn after courts in the far eastern city of Vladivostok and the southern Voronezh region ruled they distribute pornography.

Pornhub, which says it is the world's number one free pornography site, responded with a cheeky tweet to the Roskomnadzor watchdog, offering it premium subscription in return for lifting the ban.

"If we give you guys a Pornhub Premium account, will you ban Pornhub in Russia?" the site wrote.

"Sorry, we are not in the market, and the demography is not a commodity," the agency snapped back in English on its official Twitter, suggesting pornography is preventing the population from reproducing.

Roskomnadzor's spokesman Vadim Ampelonsky told RIA Novosti state news agency that lifting the ban was possible "only after a complete change in the sites' repertoire."

The watchdog also retweeted a message that it posted last September after a viewer complained about a previous porn site ban.

"As an alternative you can meet someone in real life," it said, adding an update: "Dear Internet lovers, by the way this advice is still relevant."

As the row continued, "Roskomnadzor" was trending on Russian Twitter on Thursday and many praised Pornhub for its unusual strategy.

Pornhub made the watchdog "an offer that's hard to refuse," wrote Russia's Afisha entertainment site.

Pornhub and YouPorn are both part of the same network owned by global company MindGeek.

Russia has cracked down on the internet, one of the last open forums for political debate, jailing users purely for posts on social media.

This summer Moscow passed "Big Brother" legislation forcing online companies to store users' data and pass it to government agencies if requested.

President Vladimir Putin has also made clear his disgust for much non-political content online, saying in 2010 that "half the posted material is pornography."