Russia blocks Shutterstock pages over flag insult

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Russia on Tuesday said it had blocked pages of the American photo agency Shutterstock over images it said insulted state symbols, with one showing a Russian flag placed in excrement.

Communications watchdog Roskomnadzor said “certain pages of Shutterstock have been added to the [banned] register,” according to state news agency TASS.

Roskomnadzor said pages on Shutterstock, which says it has 300 million images, were blocked due to “insulting state symbols” and showing “methods of suicide.”

Roskomsvoboda, a freedom of information campaign group, publicized the ban on Monday, saying that it affected a page showing a Russian flag placed in a pile of excrement.

The state watchdog’s website confirmed that the page was blocked on prosecutors’ request.

However, the image could still be accessed on Shutterstock’s site on Tuesday afternoon.

Webpages that “insult state symbols” can be blocked by the state watchdog without any court decision, obliging providers to block sites if owners do not delete the material.

The watchdog’s website said four pages had been blocked on its initiative and on the request of the Prosecutor-General’s Office, without specifying which pages.

One of Shutterstock’s domains is blocked in Russia, though its main website is still available.

The communications watchdog said the ban requests dated back to October.

The deputy head of Roskomnadzor watchdog, Vadim Subbotin, told TASS that Shutterstock had not responded to requests to delete the content.

“We’re ready to discuss further effective cooperation when they get in touch,” he said.

Shutterstock did not immediately respond to a request for comment.