MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russian officials offered assurances they were not seeking to block access to YouTube on Wednesday, 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 Russia’s 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 them (YouTube). Basically, we see no reason now to apply towards its owners any preventive measures.”
Russia’s 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 U.S.-based Google Inc..
A spokeswoman for Google in Russia, 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 organize demonstrations, say the law is part of a crackdown on dissent 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 after a series of opposition protests that were the biggest of his 13-year rule.
Additional reporting by Maria Tsvetkova and Anastasia Teterevleva; Editing by Steve Gutterman and Sophie Hares