MOSCOW, March 18 (RIA Novosti) – Russia’s consumer rights watchdog hit out at Google and YouTube on Monday over what it called online suicide instruction videos.
“Google Russia and YouTube LLC express their position based solely on a threat to the freedom of access to information on the Internet,” the Rospotrebnadzor watchdog said in a statement.
The watchdog’s statement came after YouTube, Google’s video sharing unit, filed a lawsuit against Rospotrebnadzor over a decision to block a video containing alleged “harmful” material. A preliminary hearing into the case began on Friday.
The watchdog said the video contained instructions on how to commit suicide and violated Russia’s law on the protection of children from harmful material.
Google said the law could be used to limit access to other forms of content.
Rospotrebnadzor also stressed on Monday that while the production and promotion of videos promoting drugs and pornography is punishable under Russia’s Criminal Code, the distribution of videos encouraging suicide is not a criminal offense.
The watchdog has cracked down recently on websites containing suicide-related materials, blaming them for the alarmingly high numbers of suicides among Russian teens.
The United Nations says around 1,700 Russian teenagers aged 15-19 take their lives every year. Russia’s figure of some 20 suicides for every 100,000 teenagers is around three times higher than the world average.
Google Russia and YouTube LLC could not be immediately reached for comment on Monday morning.