Russia clamps down on Internet

A court in Russia's far east has ordered an Internet provider to block five sites which it said disseminated extreme views, prompting US Internet giant Google to say on Thursday the move restricted access to information.

Russian Internet provider Rosnet appealed to overturn the ruling by a district court in Russia's Far Eastern city of Komsomolsk-on-Amur, which is the only place the order applies, and which ordered Rosnet to limit access to the five sites that include the YouTube video service owned by Google.



Rosnet President Alexander Yermakov told national media that his company had declined to block access to the sites, saying the judge was "incompetent" and that he was determined "to go till the end, till the Constitutional Court."



Google, which runs the world's largest search engine, also criticized the court's ruling which ordered Rosnet to block its popular YouTube video site for having posted a film clip which the judge said fomented ethnic hatred.



"This (ruling) is an obvious violation of the right to obtain information," Alla Zabrovskaya, communications and public affairs manager at Google Russia, told Reuters.



"Due to just one video clip, which is mentioned in the court's ruling, the talk is about blocking the entire site which channels a huge stream of information - you can imagine its volumes if it takes you a minute to download 24 hours of video."



"This is a huge volume of information which may now be unavailable to users in this city."



She said that in line with YouTube rules, Russia's Internet community can itself control the site, marking and deleting video clips that foment national, religious or racial hatred.



Russian human rights activists and Kremlin opponents have repeatedly voiced concerns that the authorities may gag any media outlet by merely accusing it of purveying content containing extreme views.



A survey by the Levada Center pollsters published this week said 39 per cent of its respondents believed that any criticism of the authorities could be banned in Russia under this pretext.

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