Published September 18, 2012
MOSCOW – The Russian government is threatening to ban YouTube entirely unless the company takes down a controversial anti-Islamic film that has led to violent protests across the Muslim world.
Fearing unrest among Russian Muslims, Communications Minister Nikolai Nikiforov wrote on Twitter Tuesday that access to the online video sharing site will be blocked in Russia if owner Google fails to abide by a court order banning the showing of the U.S.-produced film U.S., which mocks Muslims and the prophet Muhammad.
Prosecutors have already asked a Moscow court to outlaw the "Innocence of Muslims" film as "extremist, and offending believers," and a verdict is expected soon, the Associated Press reported.
Google will remove content that is shown to violate local laws, but the Internet giant said it also strives to maintain a balance between free speech and censorship.
"We work hard to create a community everyone can enjoy and which also enables people to express different opinions," a YouTube spokesman told FoxNews.com. "This can be a challenge because what's OK in one country can be offensive elsewhere."
The low-budget movie, entitled "Innocence of Muslims," has angered followers of Islam who feel it portrays Muslims as immoral and gratuitously violent -- even though the only part of the film seen anywhere has been a brief trailer.
"When videos breach [local] rules, we remove them. Where we have launched YouTube locally and we are notified that a video is illegal in that country, we will restrict access to it after a thorough review," a spokesman for Google told AFP on Monday.
The company declined to say whether it would honor Nikiforov's demands. The video has already been removed in certain countries, notably India, Indonesia, Libya and Egypt. Google said other countries may have blocked the site as well.
"We have received information from users that they cannot get access to YouTube in Pakistan and Bangladesh. We have checked our networks and there is nothing wrong on our side," a spokesman told FoxNews.com.
Google said last week that it would not block access to the YouTube video in the United States, however. The decision followed a White House request for the trailer for "Innocence of Muslims" to be reviewed under the company’s policies.
The Obama administration was not explicitly asking YouTube to remove the film, but to check if it meets their standards.
The company determined that the video was within guidelines.
"This video -- which is widely available on the Web -- is clearly within our guidelines and so will stay on YouTube," Google said.