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What Russia censored in February

By Andrei Soldatov / 27 March, 2013

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It became clear in February that internet censorship in Russia could be expanded to include sites with gay content. The State Duma voted for a bill banning “propaganda” for homosexuality involving minors, the second reading of which is scheduled for 25 May.

Many commentators believe that by then the bill will include amendments extending the list of conditions for blocking websites to include those containing information about homosexuality, which could be blocked without a court order. Current laws on protection of children could be similarly amended.

Duma deputy Elena Mizulina stated: “No adult has the right to impose their sexual preferences on a person under 18 years of age. Propaganda for homosexuality should be considered information inappropriate for children.” The League for Internet Safety, which is backed by the Kremlin and was behind the introduction of the register of banned websites in Russia, supports the initiative.

Schools, students, libraries and a post office

Tuva prosecutor demands school filters
On 22 February it was reported by the Ulug-Khem district prosecutor’s office of the Tuva republic that computers in a school that had been discovered in an inspection last October to allow unfettered access to extremist websites were still lacking filtering software. The computers, in a school in the town of Shagonar, allowed access to Islamist, anti-Semitic and fascist videos and books. The prosecutor demanded that the republic’s minister of education penalise the school’s principal and ensure that the school end the violations.

Stavropol attack on “harmful” advertising
On 26 February it was reported that a prosecutor’s audit of the Stavropol region in January had found that internet service providers were placing ads for pornographic materials and films featuring scenes of cruelty on school websites hosted on portals narod.ru and ukoz.ru. On 9 January, the prosecutor’s office told the head of the Stavropol city education office to cease violating legislation on the rights of minors. Ten school principals now face disciplinary action.

Restrictions on student access in Vologda
On 28 February it was reported that the Vologda city prosecutor had found websites containing extremist and pornographic materials and alcohol advertising to be accessible from computers in five schools. The prosecutor told the schools to block students’ access.

Rural school told: block “damaging” information
On 18 February it was reported that the Kalininskii district prosecutor in the Saratov region had found that computers in the Simonovka village secondary school provided access to websites “that could damage the health and moral and spiritual development of children”. The prosecutor told the school administration to cease the violations.

Library must restrict access to explosives sites
On 18 February it was reported that the Khanty-Mansiysk autonomous district prosecutor had found that Beloyarsk library computers provided access to websites with information on manufacturing explosives. The library was told to cease the violations and to bring charges against those responsible.

Surgut prosecutor hits at school porn
On 22 February it was reported that the Surgut district prosecutor had found that computers in the Lyaminsk high school allowed access to pornographic material. The prosecutor demanded that the school install content-filtering software to restrict students’ access to harmful websites.

Amur school instructed to block violence
On 11 February it was reported that the Bureya district prosecutor of the Amur region had found that computers in Rodionovo secondary school allowed access to sites promoting violence and brutality, drugs, pornography and anti-social behaviour. The school principal was ordered to cease the violations and bring disciplinary action against those responsible.

Kostroma post office fined
On 13 February the Kostroma region prosecutor reported that an inspection by the Mezhevsky district prosecutor had revealed that a computer in the Georgievskoe village post office allowed access to extremist materials and information on the manufacturing and use of tobacco and illegal drugs. After a court case, the post office was fined 20,000 rubles (£425).

Bashkortostan court orders school filters
On 13 February it was announced that Dyurtyuli interdistrict prosecutor in Bashkortostan had found that computers in schools provided access to websites with information on narcotics. The prosecutor demanded that the schools install filtering software and limit access to these sites, demands that were backed by a court.

School head sued on access to extremism
On 6 February it was reported that the Umetskii district prosecutor in the Tambov region had found a computer in a local high school that allowed access to extremist materials. The principal of the school was ordered to cease allowing access, and the prosecutor recommended disciplinary charges against the responsible parties.

“Students need protection” in Kineshima
On 6 February the Ivanovo regional prosecutor reported that the Kineshma prosecutor had found that computers in the city’s schools provided access to extremist materials. The schools were ordered to cease violations of anti-extremism legislation.

Salekhard school must install internet filters
On 6 February it was reported that the Salekhard city prosecutor had found that students of a secondary school were inadequately protected from harmful information: computers at the school could be used to access pornographic material, information about manufacturing explosives, and texts with foul language. The principal was ordered to install working internet filters.

Prosecutor demands protection from poetry
On 8 February it was reported that Omsukchan district prosecutor in Magadan had established that filtering software in the Omsukchan village high school was failing to prevent access to extremist materials, including Vladimir Shcherbina’s poem “Progonite zhida” (Chase Away the Jew). The school was ordered to restrict access to the extremist websites.

Extremism

Altai court orders block on 29 websites
On 25 February the Gorno-Altaisk city court upheld the demand of the Altai Republic prosecutor that the regional branch of the ISP Mobil’nye TeleSystemy limit access to 29 websites. The materials include songs on the Federal List of Extremist Materials published on 12 websites, and a book also on the list published on 17 sites. The court ordered the ISP to limit access to these materials. The decision has not yet entered into force.

Saratov prosecutor demands restrictions
On 26 February it was reported that the Leninskii district prosecutor in Saratov had identified several sites “containing public calls for extremist activities, terrorism, incitement of hatred or enmity, as well as humiliation of human dignity”. The prosecutor has ordered the regional branch of the ISP MTS to restrict access to these sites by installing IP-address filtering on its routers.

Extremist sites blocked in Smolensk
On 27 February it was reported that two websites containing extremist material had been blocked in response to a demand from the Roslavl prosecutor in the Smolensk region.

Yekaterinburg authorities block sites
On 27 February the Sverdlovsk regional appeal court considered the regional prosecutor’s appeal against the decision of the Upper Iset Yekaterinburg district court to dismiss the request of Zheleznodorozhnyi district prosecutor in Ekaterinburg to block access to four extremist websites. The appeal court overturned the original decision and ordered the ISP Telnet Service to restrict access to websites on the Federal List of Extremist Materials.

Omsk oppositionist added to register
On 27 February it was reported the administration of LiveJournal.com had blocked the account of Mikhail Yakovlev, the Omsk opposition leader. The author was notified that his page had been added to the Register of Banned Sites. According to Yakovlev, the ban could be related either to his criticism of the Sverdlovsk governor Yevgeniy Kuyvashev or to his liberal position on soft drugs.

Altai demands restrictions
On 18 February the Altai regional prosecutor announced that the Zarinsk prosecutor had identified several websites containing extremist materials and demanded that two ISPs use IP-address filtering to block them.

Kirov action against ISPs
On 18 February the Kirov district prosecutor in Samara filed 10 legal suits against ISPs demanding blocks on websites that contain extremist materials. The suits are currently being considered.

Extremist website accessed from college
On 20 February it was reported that the counterpropaganda officers of the Centre for Extremism Prevention of the Karachay-Cherkessia’s Ministry of Internal Affairs had discovered that computers at the Karachay-Cherkessia College of International Tourism and Hospitality Management in the village of Uchkeken, provided unfettered access to a website included on the Federal List of Extremist Materials. The audit results have been forwarded to the prosecutor’s office.

ISP blocks sites in Smolensk
On 11 February it was reported that in the city of Gagarin in the Smolensk region the ISP Orbit Plus partially blocked access to several sites that published Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf and other pro-Nazi texts. Last November the regional prosecutor demanded that the ISP cease violating the Law on Combating Extremist Activity.

Videos barred in Altai
On 13 February the Gorno-Altaisk city court considered a suit filed in January by the Altai republic’s prosecutor against the ISP Rostelecom demanding restrictions on access to extremist videos published via the online social network VKontakte. In the course of the trial it was established that access to the videos had been restricted prior to the start of the trial. The case was subsequently dismissed.

Islamist videos banned in Kursk
On 13 February it was reported that the Zheleznodorozhnyi district prosecutor in Kursk had found extremist materials accessible online including anti-Russian Islamist video clips and other materials aimed at undermining the constitution and justifying murders of law enforcement officers. The ISPs Aksinet and Comstar-Regiony were told to restrict access to the relevant sites and complied with the demand.

Audit of websites in Karachay-Cherkessia
On 5 February the Centre for Extremism Prevention and the FSB of the Karachay-Cherkessia republic identified a publicly accessible website containing extremist material. The audit results have been forwarded to the republic’s prosecutor.

ISP warned in Krasnodar
On 7 February the Krasnodar regional prosecutor reported that the Temryukskii district prosecutor had identified a publicly accessible website, Vilayat Dagestan – maintained by Imarat Kavkaz (“Caucasus Emirate”) organisation – publishing extremist materials. The director of the regional branch of the ISP MTS was warned about about the impermissibility of extremist activity.

Gambling and online casinos

Khanty-Mansiysk court blocks gambling
On 25 February it was reported that the Urai prosecutor in Khanty-Mansiysk autonomous district had been granted court backing to ensure that the ISP Rostelecom block access to gambling websites.

Tula prosecutor goes for pyramid scheme

On 26 February the Sovetskii district prosecutor in Tula sued the ISPs Altair Tula, MTS, RadioPeydzh-T, Tulskii Gosudarstvennyi Universitet and ER-Telecom Holding, demanding that they restrict access to sites of the MMM pyramid scheme.

Ufa prosecutor demands restrictions
On 25 February it was announced that the Sovetskii district prosecutor in Ufa had sued the ISP Ufanet demanding that it block access to 26 gambling websites.

Gambling targeted in Surgut
On 27 February the Khanty-Mansiysk autonomous district prosecutor reported that the Surgut city prosecutor had identified several illegal gambling websites. The prosecutor demanded that six ISPs restrict access.

Tula casino access barred
On 27 February it was reported that the Tsentralnyi district prosecutor in Tula had filed 33 writs against ISPs demanding restrictions on access to online casinos. The Tsentralnyi district court ordered the ISPs to comply.

Pyramid-scheme sites banned in Yamal-Nenets
On 1 March the Yamal-Nenets autonomous district prosecutor reported that the Gubkinskiy city prosecutor had identified pyramid-scheme advertising on 18 websites and that Gubkinskiy city court had accepted the prosecutor’s demand that the ISP Pursatkom restrict access to the sites.

Chita court order ISP to block pyramid schemes
On 19 February it was reported that the central district court of Chita had granted a prosecutor’s request to order the local branch of the ISP Rostelecom to restrict access to the sites of Sergei Mavrodi, the creator of pyramid schemes. The decision has not yet entered into force.

Samara bars gambling ads
On 19 February it was reported that the Neftegorsk interdistrict prosecutor in the Samara region had identified 10 sites that provided information about a pyramid scheme. The Leninskii district court of Samara accepted the prosecutor’s demand that the ISP Rostelecom limit access to these sites. The court’s decisions have not yet entered into force.

Casino sites blocked in Kaliningrad
On 20 February it was announced that the Moscovskii district prosecutor in Kaliningrad had identified two gambling websites. The ISP TIS-Dialogue agreed voluntarily to its demand that it limit access to these sites.

Computer club told to clamp down
On 21 February it was reported that Kurganinskii district prosecutor in Krasnodar had found a pyramid-scheme website to be accessible via a computer club. The prosecutor’s demands that the owner of the club restrict access were accepted by the district court.

Surgut blocks pyramid sites
On 12 February it was reported that the Surgut city prosecutor had successfully moved to restrict access to pyramid-scheme websites.

Online casinos blocked in Samara
On 13 February the Leninskii district court in Samara accepted nine demands from the Chapaevsk prosecutor for restrictions on access to online casinos. The decisions of the court have not yet entered into force.

Tula orders online casino ban
On 15 February it was reported that the Sovetskii district court of Tula had accepted prosecutors’ demands that ISPs Altair Tula, MTS, and ER-Telecom Holding block access to gambling websites.

Casinos blocked in Komi Republic
On 14 February it was reported that the Ukhta city prosecutor had been given court approval for its demand that the ISP GSP restrict access to nine gambling websites.

Drugs

Samara court blocks drug promotion
On 20 February it was announced that the Oktiabrskii district prosecutor in Samara had filed 70 writs demanding restrictions on access to websites promoting illegal drugs. Of these, 43 have been accepted by the local court and the rest are pending. Previously, on 5 February, the Kirov district prosecutor on Samara had successfully demanded restrictions on access to seven sites promoting drugs.

Cannabis sites blocked in Voronezh

On 13 February the Voronezh ISP Votek Mobile was ordered by a district court to limit access to the online cannabis seed distributor Semyanych, kacheli.my1.ru and ganzhaman.tut.by. Votek Mobile closed access to these sites.

And the rest

Move on fake diplomas site
On 8 February the Zhigulevsk city court in Samara backed the city prosecutor’s demand for restrictions on access to a website offering fake diplomas from various educational institutions. The court’s decision has not yet come into force.

Chechnya ban on Islamist TV channel
On 12 February the Leninskii district court of Grozny declared the internet TV channel Imam TV extremist. The site carries Musa Yandyrhanov’s video Napominaniie (Reminder) and talks by other members of illegal armed groups. The court said these materials promoted terrorism, contained incitement to violence against government representatives and incited hatred on religious grounds.

Block on sites giving bribery tips
On 12 February the Bashkortostan republic prosecutor announced that Sharanskii district prosecutor had identified several websites containing tips on giving bribes. The ISP Bashinformsvyaz was made to restrict access to these sites.

User group banned in St Petersburg
On 15 February it was reported that the Centralnyi district prosecutor in St Petersburg had ordered the social network VKontakte to block the user group Childfree. The prosecutor found that the group’s posts contained material violating the rights of minors. The VKontakte administration blocked the user group and deleted all its posts and blocked one user’s account.

ISP sued for posting bribery tips
On 4 February the Nefteyugansk interdistrict prosecutor identified sites containing bribery tips and filed a writ against the ISP Elektrosviazi demanding that it restrict access to these sites.

Orel blocks bribery sites
On 7 February it was reported that the Orel city prosecutor had identified several websites with tips on bribery and had been granted its demand for restrictions on access to the sites.

Post by designer added to banned list
On 5 February the popular designer Artemy Lebedev reported that the ISP Roskomnadzor had added his blog post containing an animated movie, Dumb Ways to Die, to the Register of Banned Sites. Roskomnadzor interpreted the video — a public service announcement by Metro Trains Melbourne in Australia — as promoting suicide.

Andrei Soldatov is a Russian journalist, and together with Irina Borogan, co-founder of the Agentura.Ru website. Last year, Soldatov and Borogan co-authored The New Nobility: The Restoration of Russia’s Security State and the Enduring Legacy of the KGB (PublicAffairs)

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