YouTube challenges Rospotrebnadzor decision against content promoting suicides in Russia

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YouTube, LLC has filed in the Arbitration Court of Moscow lawsuit against the Federal Service for Supervision of Consumer Rights Protection and Human Welfare (Rospotrebnadzor). The lawsuit was filed on February 11, 2013. YouTube disputes the decision of Rospotrebnadzor, according to which one of the video tracks hosted on YouTube is defined as promoting suicides. Law “On Protection of Children from Information Harmful to Their Health and Development” states that appropriate information is forbidden for spreading among children, and under the Law “On Information, Information Technologies and Protection of Information” presence of such content as well as, for example, child pornography or materials that propagandize drugs is the reason for inclusion of the appropriate websites, on which is available prohibited in Russia information, in the register containing domain names, uniform resource locators (URL) of web pages and IP addresses of sites. The Federal Service of Supervision in Sphere of Communication, Information Technologies and Mass Media (Roskomnadzor) creates, forms and maintains the register. After inclusion of the domain name and (or) URL in the register hosting provider must inform owner of the website about necessity of immediate deletion of the web page which contain forbidden information. If owner of the website doesn’t delete web page, hosting provider should restrict access to the website. If, after all prohibited content is still available, IP address of the website should be added to the register, access to the website should be restricted by operator of Internet communication.

Domain youtube.com was included in the register on November 21, 2012 by the decision of Rospotrebnadzor. Domain remained in the register approximately an hour, and after that was excluded from the register. As Roskomnadzor stated, disputed video tracks were deleted, inclusion of the domain youtube.com in the register was caused by technical error. However, in the described case the video track shows the process of preparing makeup for the Halloween, as was stated by the plaintiff. Per position of this party the case proved the necessity of clear criteria which define illegality of the content. YouTube has blocked the controversial video track in order to avoid general blocking of the website, but require recognition of the Rospotrebnadzor decision as illegitimate. YouTube is the global community, where people can express themselves and receive information by exchanging video. YouTube does all for maximal access to the information, but sometimes blocks content on local domains being based on the requirements of the domestic legislation. In the appropriate case YouTube has filed the lawsuit because it believes that the restriction of the access to entertainment content wasn’t the aim of the Law “On Protection of Children from Information Harmful to Their Health and Development”.

Register, which contain domain names, URL and IP addresses of the websites on which is available prohibited in Russia information is functioning since November 1, 2012. Websites which contain information materials as child pornography, promotion of drugs and suicides can be added to the register without court decisions. Among websites that for some time were included in the register are library of the Internet memes lurkmore.to, torrent tracker rutracker.org, website for the anonymous communication 4chan.org, blog hosting website Google Blogspot. Many Internet companies warned about situation in which claims to the content of the certain web page could result to the general blocking of the website, because operators prefer general blocking of the website by IP address than blocking of the certain web page that requiring expensive equipment.

Law describes the procedure of appeal against decision, by which website is included in the register: hosting provider or owner of the website can do it within three months since such decision was made. In the described case court will likely to apply forensics to determine legitimacy or illegitimacy of inclusion of the domain in the register. Perspective of the case remains unclear. On the one hand, Rospotrebnadzor claimed inclusion of only certain web pages in the register, not website generally, therefore YouTube generally was included in the register because of the Roskomnadzor fault, so YouTube should file lawsuit against Roskomnadzor. On the other hand, Google is the administrator of the domain name youtube.com, thus relevance of the claims of YouTube as plaintiff is questioned.

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