Russia's communications minister is threatening to ban YouTube in the country if the popular Internet site doesn't remove a video mocking Islam.
Although Moscow courts have yet to grant prosecutors' request, critics say banning sites is just another way for the Kremlin to clamp down on the opposition in the country, which is home to roughly 20 million Muslims.
The YouTube video mocking Islam is still up and available for viewing in Russia.
Under new legislation expected to be enacted November 1, sites that carry banned information in Russia would be put on a special list which would be distributed to Internet service providers, who would then be notified they have one day to block access to the sites.
Senator Ruslan Gattarov of the pro-Kremlin United Russia Party was the first senator to raise the sensitive issue with prosecutors. He says as long as Google, the owner of YouTube, removes the video, the site will not need to be blocked.
"Content that is insulting to the people, of low quality, that is simply gaudy and which may be considered similar to pedophilia, should not be present on the Web, let alone on such big portals as YouTube," he said.
Many Russian politicians, including former Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin, say the Internet has been responsible for facilitating protests of unprecedented size against President Vladimir Putin ahead of this year's presidential election.
According to political analyst Andrei Kortunov, president of the New Eurasia Foundation in Moscow, even if supporters of the law have benign intentions, the scope of the new law's enforcement could remain an open question.
"It is a slippery slope. We do not know how it will be interpreted and implemented," he said. "Once you embark on this road and start limiting Internet content, it will be hard to stop. I think what bothers many people is that they see this legislation as another link that not only applies to the Internet, but to the freedom of rallies or demonstrations."
Despite concerns of many Russians, Senator Gattarov says the new legislation is not censorship, explaining that it is wrong to say legislators are going to introduce something like censorship in Russia.
"They are fighting extremist content or content bringing children under the influence of pedophiles, under the influence of drug dealers and those who are ready to tell children how to commit suicide," he said.
Google’s Moscow office says it has received the request by Russian prosecutors to remove the video, but a spokesman says the company’s head office will have to officially respond to the request.
Meanwhile, civil activists have asked for permission from Moscow’s mayor to hold a sanctioned rally to protest censorship on the Internet and the possible closure of public sites such as YouTube.