Smartphone filming at Winter Olympics? Could be 'nyet'

Journalists covering the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, have been told they're not allowed to use smartphones and tablets to take video during the games, according to reports.

Carrie Mihalcik Former Managing Editor / News
Carrie was a managing editor at CNET focused on breaking and trending news. She'd been reporting and editing for more than a decade, including at the National Journal and Current TV.
Expertise Breaking News | Technology Credentials
  • Carrie has lived on both coasts and can definitively say that Chesapeake Bay blue crabs are the best.
Carrie Mihalcik
3 min read
You might not see many journalists posting photos with #RoadToSochi. D Dipasupil/Getty Images

Journalists who use their iPhone or Galaxy S4 to take video during the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics in Russia could promptly lose their rights to cover the games.

According to Radio Free Europe (translation), Vasily Konov, head of the state-run R-Sport news agency, said: "Journalists using mobile phones to film athletes or spectators will be considered a serious violation and will result in cancellation of accreditation." Konov was speaking Friday to sports journalists attending a training seminar on covering the upcoming Olympic games, according to the report.

Konov later denied the report, according to BuzzFeed, but other news agencies also claimed they heard Konov talking about the ban. The ban reportedly includes all nonprofessional equipment, including all smartphones and tablets. Videotaping authorization would be granted only to journalists with professional equipment and the appropriate badges.

So, what does this mean for journalists who regularly use mobile devices for reporting, as well as for posting behind-the-scenes shots on social media?

In an e-mail to CNET, a spokesperson for the International Olympic Committee (IOC) said accredited media are free to use social media for reporting purposes, adding that there have been no rule changes from the 2012 London Summer Olympics, and that media will be able to report from venues in Sochi, "including by social media," in the same way.

The IOC pointed to this excerpt from the committee's guidelines on social media use:

6. Accredited Media
Accredited media may freely utilise social media platforms or websites for bona fide reporting purposes. Photos taken by accredited photographers may be published for editorial purposes on social media platforms or websites in accordance with the Photographers Undertaking. The Olympic symbol -- i.e. the five interlaced rings, which is the property of the IOC -- can be used by accredited media for factual and editorial purposes, for example in a news article covering the Olympic Games. All other provisions of these Guidelines apply.

According to USA Today's For The Win, IOC spokesman Mark Adams confirmed that journalists "will be allowed to use Instagram, Twitter, and other social media to post still photos and news from the Sochi Olympics." Adams said filming video for social media accounts is not allowed due to restrictions from the sale of the Games' broadcast rights, according to For The Win.

In essence, this means you'll likely still get to see photo finishes posted via Twitter, Facebook, and other social media sites from your favorite sports journalists -- but things like Vine and Instagram videos could be out.

Fans attending the games can still take pictures with their smartphones, according to the report, but they could be banned from carrying professional camera gear.

This wouldn't be the first technology roadblock to be set up ahead of the Winter Olympics. Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB) plans to monitor electronic communications by competitors and spectators during the event, reported the Guardian. A professor at the University of Toronto told the Guardian it would be like "PRISM on steroids," referring to one of the NSA surveillance programs revealed by leaker Edward Snowden.

Update, November 12 at 7:21 a.m. PT: Added comment from International Olympic Committee and more information.

(Via TechCrunch)