Russia briefly bans YouTube 'by mistake'

AFP , Wednesday 21 Nov 2012

Russia consumer protection agency bans youtube claiming a 'technical mistake', in a country which has been repetitively criticized for its crackdown on media freedom

Web-surfing Russians endured a brief scare Wednesday that the authorities had blocked YouTube after the video-sharing website appeared on a list of banned addresses, in what officials later called a "technical mistake".

The new registry of blacklisted websites introduced this month showed the website as having been added there Wednesday by Russia's consumer protection agency and remained on it for several minutes.

After a media furore swiftly ensued, the agency's head Gennady Onishchenko told Russian news agencies that the intention was to ban 22 specific videos, rather than the whole service, notably ones giving instructions on how to commit suicide.

The spokesman for communications ministry's watchdog responsible for the website registry Vladimir Pikov told AFP that the incident a "technical mistake", without giving further explanations.

Russians have been worried about an impending Internet crackdown ever since the hasty recent passage of a law which introduced the concept of the blacklist.

Supporters said it was necessary for blocking harmful content, including suicide manuals, child pornography, and information on illicit drugs, but critics saw it as yet another measure to suppress free speech following President Vladimir Putin's election to a historic third term in May.

The legislation was protested by many global websites, including Russian search engine Yandex and Wikipedia, who warned that the mechanism behind the blacklist could be used for a blanket shutdown of popular social networks.

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