The Russian website blacklist shows its limits

By EDRi · September 25, 2013

Russia has operated since 2012 a national blacklist of sites that allegedly do not comply with the law. The website blacklist currently includes hundreds of websites, from those promoting drug taking and suicide to those offering child pornography, but also sites that infringe the anti-piracy law. All these websites are to be blocked at the ISP level. Moreover, the legislation allows the blocking of sites that only link to infringing content if they do not take action within 72 hours of a complaint.

On 19 September 2013, telecoms watchdog Roskomnadzor said that Facebook has been provisionally put on a list of banned Internet sites and asked to remove controversial content within three days. According to the watchdog “several users had complained that Facebook ads were advertising illegal products, leading to online stores selling the products.” During the same day Facebook confirmed the controversial ads had been removed and the watchdog decided to keep the website out of the blocking list. But, according to some media reports, the site was never informed that it was facing a ban.

Just one day later, on 20 September 2013, Roskomnadzor confirmed that VKontakte, Russia’s largest social network was also added to the blacklist and would be given three days to remove certain content on one of its pages following complaints.

Yet, on the 24 September 2013, Vladimir Pikov, a spokesman for Roskomnadzor, stated this was made by mistake. “In this case, someone checked a box against the address of the social network. The site has been removed from the list and restrictions on access to it have been lifted.” This is not the first “mistake”. Roskomnadzor has temporarily blocked access to Google and YouTube due to “technical errors” as well.

Artem Kozlyuk, head of RosKomSvoboda, an organization that monitors Russia’s blacklist, told TorrentFreak that, besides to sites that are officially added to the blacklist, there are many thousands that are illegally blocked due to broad IP address-based filters and that they include even operating system sites, libraries, publishing houses, forums and personal blogs.

99% of sites currently blocked in Russia are illegally being subjected to blocking. At the moment, in quantitative terms, it’s more than 30,000 sites, but decisions under the law have only been issued against 450 of them. The remaining sites are being blocked just because they are on the same IP address as those carrying the illegal material, explained Kozlyuk.

Facebook Added to Russian Website Blocklist, Joins 30,000 Unofficial Others (20.09.2013)

Russia’s ‘Facebook’ Blacklisted by ‘Mistake’ (24.09.2013)

Russian Government Agency Threatens To Ban Facebook Over Illegal Ads (25.09.2013)

Russian Blacklist info (only in Russian)

EDRi-gram: New Russian copyright law raises freedom of expression concerns (28.08.2012)