Russian authorities have banned an image depicting President Vladimir Putin as a gay clown because they think it is extremist content.

The Russian government's index of materials that constitute "extremism" was updated last week to include a new item, 4071. This item has been described as an image of a Putin-like person "with eyes and lips made up", with a pro-gay slogan.

It is now illegal to share this particular caricature in Russia over the internet. While various Russian news outlets reported the news of the ban, many of them avoided using the image.

The court that issued the ban order said the image "hints at the Russian president's allegedly nonstandard sexual orientation". Neither the government nor the president in Russia favour non-traditional sexual orientations.

The caricature became popular in 2013 after Russia passed a law banning the promotion of homosexuality. Gay rights protesters were beaten and arrested. A man named A V Tsvetkov uploaded the image and many others on social media.

Tsvetkov was locked up in a pretrial detention centre for violation of Article 282 -- Russia's controversial ban on hate speech that carries a five-year prison sentence. While most expected him to be sent to prison, he was instead cleared of any criminal liability and placed in compulsory psychiatric care.

Russia has been known to censor its media and passed its first "internet extremism" law in 2013, a year after Putin returned to the presidency and began restricting civil rights.

Soon after, Putin signed a law imposing prison sentences on people who even dare to like forbidden online posts, such as homosexual content and criticism of Putin. By 2015, the government began cracking down on websites of Putin critics, even restricting anonymous blogs.