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YouTube removed from Russian banned list

Published: 7:36PM Thursday November 22, 2012 Source: Reuters

Russian officials offered assurances they were not seeking to block access to YouTube today, saying a technical error caused the popular video-sharing website to appear briefly on a register of sites containing banned content.

For about an hour, YouTube was listed on the newly-created register, which the government says is needed to fight child pornography, but critics of president Vladimir Putin fear may be used to censor the Internet and stifle dissent.

YouTube was subsequently removed from the register, maintained by Russian communications watchdog agency Roskomnadzor, which said there was no plan to block access to the site.

"An unfortunate technical mistake occurred," Roskomnadzor spokesman Vladimir Pikov said. "We work closely with [YouTube]. Basically, we see no reason now to apply towards its owners any preventive measures."

Consumer protection rights watchdog Rospotrebnadzor said YouTube took down several videos earlier this week as requested by officials under the new law tightening Internet controls that took effect on November 1.

The blacklist includes websites containing pornographic images of children, instructions on how to make, use and where to get drugs, as well as others describing suicide methods.

Under the legislation, websites have three days to remove content considered harmful or illegal by Russian authorities before they can be blocked.

YouTube is owned by US-based Google.

Google spokeswoman Alla Zabrovskaya said all requests from the authorities are handled by the company's global headquarters in the United States.

Anti-Putin activists, who have used the Internet to organise demonstrations, say the law is part of a crackdown on dissents, orchestrated by the Kremlin since Putin, a former KGB spy, returned to presidency in May.

After a stint as prime minister, Putin was elected to a third presidential term in March, following a series of opposition protests that were the biggest of his 13-year rule.