Why YouTube Is Fighting Russia Over a Halloween Video

Photographer: Renee Keith

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Photographer: Renee Keith

A rather standard how-to YouTube clip is causing a stir in Russia after becoming the focus of a dispute between the government and the video site.

The three-minute clip, which provides instructions for applying scary Halloween makeup, was banned at the end of 2012 by Russian authorities claiming it encouraged suicide or infliction of bodily harm. YouTube, owned by Google, is now suing the government to keep the video online.

Why is YouTube — which has more than 72 hours of video uploaded to the site every minute - bothering to fight the government over this seemingly insignificant clip? It's the principle. Internet censorship may start from small things.

The dispute is a result of a new law that allows Russia to block online content it deems harmful to children, such as child pornography or content promoting drug use or suicide. Facebook and Twitter have already complied with requests to delete content.

While the Internet companies and authorities often agree on what content should and shouldn't be allowed, that isn't always the case. Russian free-speech advocates have expressed concerns that the government will use its censorship powers to go beyond what the new law intended.

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