Head of leading Russian social network deletes ‘Innocence of Muslims’ over ‘low quality’

The founder and head of the popular Russian social network Vkontakte has deleted the infamous film ’Innocence of Muslims’ from his company’s servers, saying the film was cheaply and poorly made.

Pavel Durov wrote in his Twitter microblog that he had watched Innocence of Muslims and appraised the film as “lame, low-budget and incapable of causing discussion”. He then simply wrote “deleted it” leaving the reader to guess whether this was done with a personal copy or with all references to the film on Vkontakte’s servers.

Russian journalists, however, soon learned that the latter was true. Any attempt to find the ‘Innocence of Muslims’ video in Vkontakte only yielded television programs about the film and the riots it had caused.

The Russian Prosecutor General’s Office and consumer rights watchdog Rospotrebnadzor contacted Vkontakte, along with other internet companies and ISPs with a request to block user access to the film as it could hurt believers’ feelings. At first Durov told the press that he will only block content on his site after receiving a court order, not a simple warning.

The authorities made a similar request to Google, which said it forwarded the message to its head office in the United States and so far had not received a reply.

In November a new law comes into force in Russia that will allow the agencies to block access to sites with hazardous or dangerous information. Providers can contest this decision in court.

The Russian Communications Minister warned that law enforcers could block access to YouTube in the country over the ‘Innocence of Muslims’ film, but a short time later corrected himself, saying that he expected the blocking of the film, not the YouTube service as a whole.

In early October a district court in Moscow will hear the Prosecutor General’s Office request to recognize the Innocence of Muslims as extremist material. If it is upheld, the film could be banned under a different Russian law – the Law on Extremism.

The media has reported that some internet providers in the predominantly Muslim Russian internal republic of Dagestan followed the prosecutors’ advice and blocked the user access to Youtube where the ‘Innocence of Muslims’ can still be found. Providers in Chechnya also blocked the film, after a personal request by the head of the republic, Ramzan Kadyrov.

Prosecutors in the North Caucasus federal district have told reporters that there had been minor protests over the film, but refused to tell the exact location. Reporters suggested that the prosecutors were talking about Dagestan.

Larger scale riots took place in Ukraine, where the Crimean peninsula is populated by Crimean Tatars who are Muslim. Several hundred people rallied in the region’s capital of Simferopol shouting slogans like “Insults to the Prophet are insults to the Almighty”, “Muslims are a single people” and “America, Mohammed is clean and you are humiliated”.


Last year users reported to the police that Vkontakte hosted porno videos, including child porn. The owner was asked to censor the network, but Durov answered that anyone searching for porn should not get offended by the fact that the search returns results, as adults have the right to keep and watch adult materials on their accounts.

He also suggested that the critics emigrate to China where, in his words, all internet is censored. He also urged parents to keep their children away from Vkontakte, as it was not meant for children.

As for the charges of hosting child porn, Durov claims he has a department constantly monitoring the network to delete illegal content.

(Screenshot from twitter)
(Screenshot from twitter)
Demonstrators shout anti-US slogans during a protest against the film "Innocence of Muslims". (AFP Photo / Bay Ismoyo)
Demonstrators shout anti-US slogans during a protest against the film "Innocence of Muslims". (AFP Photo / Bay Ismoyo)
Demonstrators shout anti-US slogans during a protest against the film "Innocence of Muslims". (AFP Photo / Rouf Bhat)
Demonstrators shout anti-US slogans during a protest against the film "Innocence of Muslims". (AFP Photo / Rouf Bhat)