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By Andrei Soldatov / 30 April, 2013
In March the Russian authorities turned their attentions to online social networks — and the Kremlin proved adept at getting major international companies to comply with its directives: on 15 March Twitter blocked an account that promoted drugs and on 29 March Facebook took down a page called “Suicide School” rather than see its entire network blacklisted.
On 25 March, reports surfaced that the ministry of Communications and Mass Media planned to transfer maintenance of the Registry of Banned Sites from communications regulator Roskomnadzor to a third party selected by Roskomnadzor. The ministry proposed changes to the registry; to maintain website owners’ information on the register but deny sites owners — as well as hosting and Internet providers — access to the entire registry. Internet service providers will also be obliged to restore access to sites that have been removed from the register within 24 hours.
Reports from 1 March stated that Vladimir Putin agreed a change to the Russian administrative code exempting internet service providers from responsibility for preventing availability to children of harmful materials from publicly accessible internet services. Responsibility now rests with all “persons who provide access to information distributed via telecommunication networks in places accessible to children” rather than ISPs.
On 13 March the Saratov regional prosecutor reported that the Bazarno-Karabulaksky district prosecutor had discovered that pornographic websites were accessible from computers in the village school of Alekseevka. Similar violations were discovered in schools of Maksimovka, Vyazovka and Sukhoi Karabulak. The schools were told to upgrade their content filtering.
On 27 March it was reported that the Tandinsky district court in the Tyva Republic had accepted a district prosecutor’s demand that Kochetovo village school enhance its content filtering. An inspection had found that students could access websites providing instructions on manufacturing smoking blends and explosives, as well as publications included on the Federal List of Extremist Materials.
It was reported on 27 March that the Neryungri prosecutor had discovered that computers in several schools and a college allowed access to undesirable websites. Educational managers were fined for their negligence and content filters are currently being installed.
On 29 March it was reported that the Dnovsky district prosecutor in Pskov had discovered that students in a secondary school in the town of Dno were able to freely access pornographic websites and sites promoting the use of illegal drugs. The school was told to stop allowing such access.
The Meleuzovsky prosecutor in Bashkortostan discovered that banned websites were accessible in several Meleuz educational institutions. Students in one school could access a website containing information on manufacturing hashish. The prosecutor demanded that the schools restrict access.
On 28 February an inspection by the counter-propaganda department of the Karachay-Cherkess Republic ministry of the interior’s anti-extremism unit found an extremist website on the Federal List of Extremist Materials, made publicly accessible from a computer in the Momento Burger internet cafe in Cherkessk. The case is now being considered by the local prosecutor.
It was reported on 15 March that the Syktyvkar city court had accepted its prosecutor’s writ demanding that access to 20 sites be restricted by the ISP ParmaTel for featuring extremist materials.
On 18 March it was reported that the Sokolsky prosecutor had issued a request to an ISP to block access to radical Islamist websites including an article included on the Federal List of Extremist Materials.
On 19 March the Kirovsky district court of Samara granted the prosecutor’s office claim against an Internet provider for providing access to a website that contained the book The Gardens of the Righteous by Imam Abu Zakaria Mohiuddin Yahya. The book is included on the Federal List of Extremist Materials.
On 19 March it was reported that Gagarinsky prosecutor in in Moscow had filed a writ with Gagarinsky district court against the ISP Niko-2001, demanding restrictions on access to five websites containing publications on the Federal List of Extremist Materials. The ISP complied and the case was dropped.
Reports from 19 March stated that the Sovetsky district prosecutor in Lipetsk had successfully demanded that the White Resistance (Beloie Soprotivleniie) website be recognised as extremist because it contained Aryan supremacy propaganda, including Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf.
On 21 March the Ulyanovsk regional prosecutor stated that the Inzensky district prosecutor had found a number of publicly accessible websites containing extremist materials, including the Letter of the Autonomous Mujahideen Group of Vilayata KBK IK, which is on the Federal List of Extremist Materials. The district prosecutor has served a writ against the local branch of the ISP Rostelekom demanding that access be blocked.
On 22 March it was reported that the civil law panel of the Saratov regionial court had upheld a lower court’s decision to order the ISPs COMSTAR-Regions and Altura to restrict access to websites containing extremist materials.
On 27 March the Saratov regional prosecutor was reported to have filed eight writs against the ISP COMSTAR-Regiony and the regional branch of the ISP Rostelekom, demanding restrictions on access to websites containing references to extremist activity and materials aimed at inciting hatred or enmity.
On 27 March it was reported that the Michurinsk city prosecutor in Tambov had demanded that the ISP Telesputnik restrict access to a web page containing a poem included on the Federal List of Extremist Materials. The poem was declared extremist by a city court in Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk in 2007.
On 28 March the Chelyabinsk regional prosecutor announced that the Leninsky district prosecutor in Magnitogorsk had filed seven writs demanding that ISPs restrict access to a right-wing website publishing extremist materials — among them the the article Open Questions of Russian Nationalism.
On 28 March the Sverdlovsk regional prosecutor announced that the Kamensk-Uralsky prosecutor had filed several writs against the ISPs Kamensk-Telekom and Konveks-Kamensk and the regional branch of Rostelekom demanding restrictions on access to websites containing materials on the Federal List of Extremist Materials including the tract Adhering to the Sunnah of the Prophet (Peace and Blessings of Allah be Upon Him).
On 28 March it was announced that the Bryansk regional court had granted the request of the Volodarsky district prosecutor to restrict access to websites containing extremist materials. The Sovetsky district court last year rejected the request but was overturned on appeal.
On 28 March the Ivanovo regional prosecutor reported that the Teikovsky prosecutor had identified publicly accessible websites that contain information about manufacturing explosives. Writs demanding restriction of access to the websites were subsequently issued.
On 28 March the Kirov regional prosecutor reported that a publicly accessible website offering items with fascist symbols for sale was identified during an audit. The Kirov city prosecutor demanded that the ISP MTC block access and the court complied.
On 6 March the Samara regional prosecutor declared that the Lenin district court of Samara had accepted 19 complaints by the Chapayevsk town prosecutor about inadequate restrictions on access to gambling websites.
On 14 March it was reported that the Novomalyklinsky district prosecutor’s office of the Ulyanovsk region had issued writs against the local branch of the ISP Rostelekom demanding restrictions on access to websites run by the pyramid-scheme impresario Sergey Mavrodi.
On 15 March it was reported that the Dalmatovsky district prosecutor had identified 25 gambling websites. The prosecutor demanded that the ISP Rus block the sites, and it agreed.
On 15 March the Penza regional prosecutor reported that the Lenin district prosecutor had identified 13 online casino websites. The prosecutor filed a writ against the ISP Rostelekom demanding that access be restricted, which was granted.
On 15 March it was reported that the Novotroitsk town court in the Orenburg region had agreed to a prosecutor’s demands for restrictions on access to online casino sites. The ISP Ass-Com blocked more than 20 websites voluntarily.
On 20 March the Leninsky district prosecutor’s office in Omsk sued the ISP Sakhalin in the Leninsky district court, demanding restrictions on access to pyramid-scheme websites.
On 21 March it was reported that the Pskov regional prosecutor had found 85 websites with gambling-related information and demanded access restrictions for the sites. After a long legal wrangle, the local branch of the ISP Rostelecom was ordered to restrict access.
On 22 March the Khanty-Mansiysk Autonomous district prosecutor’s office reported that the Nyagan Town prosecutor had identified several gambling websites. Based on the results of the inspection, the prosecutor filed a lawsuit against the local Rostelekom branch demanding that access to the websites be restricted. The Khanty-Mansiysk district court has granted the petition in full.
On 26 March the Perm regional prosecutor reported that pyramid-scheme websites had been found in the public domain in Chernushinsky district. The district prosecutor issued a writ demanding that the local ISP restrict access to these sites, which was accepted by the district court.
On 26 March it was reported that the appeal court in the Khanty-Mansiysk autonomous district had accepted demands from local prosecutors that pyramid-scheme websites be blocked.
On 15 March it became known that in the two preceding weeks Twitter had blocked access to five tweets and closed one user account upon request from Roskomnadzor because its owner advertised the sales of illegal drugs. Three Tweets were blocked for promoting suicide and two more for assisting in drug distribution. The deleted user’s account had advertised a drug distribution network, and was reported to Roskomnadzor by Twitter after its removal.
On 28 March it was reported that the ISP Rostelekom had blocked the Odnoklassniki and VKontakte social networks in the Ryazan and Orel regions and had blocked access to YouTube in Orel and Livejournal in Ryazan. The websites were included on the Registry of Banned Sites, but the block was later lifted.
On 28 March it was reported that the federal communications agency Roskomnadzor notified Facebook that it would be blocked unless it removed a page called “Suicide school”, containing (mostly humurous) information about suicide. The page was added to Russia’s internet blacklist and was taken down by the social networking site.
On 12 March it was reported that the Novokuibyshevsk city court in Samara region had demanded that local ISPs MIRS, Next Tell-Samara, Progress IT and TesComVolga restrict access to 25 websites that offered narcotics and psychedelic substances for sale. The websites were identified during an audit conducted by the FSB Department of Samara Region.
Reports from 12 March stated that the Sverdlovsk regional prosecutor had filed eight writs against the local branch of the ISP Rostelekom, demanding restrictions on access to the websites containing material encouraging the use of illegal drugs.
On 18 March the Vladimir regional prosecutor declared that the Kolchuginsky interdistrict prosecutor had found websites containing pornographic materials, information about drug manufacturing and articles about suicide methods, made publicly accessible from a computer installed in the Kolchugino town post office. The prosecutor issued a writ against against a local branch of the ISP Rostelekom demanding that access be restricted, to which the ISP agreed.
On 19 March it was reported that the Novokuibyshevsk city prosecutor had filed six writs to block websites featuring child pornography. The lawsuits are pending.
On 21 March it was reported that the Khabarovsk regional court had upheld the decision of the Centralny district court in October 2012 against the local branch of the ISP Rostelekom, restricting access to two websites with pornographic content.
On 27 March it was reported that a book by Perm psychotherapist Yuri Vagin, Aesthetics of Suicide (Estetika samoubiystva) had been categorised as extremist. The federal communications agency Roskomnadzor included the website of the Perm psychoanalytic society, which published the book, on the Registry of Banned Sites.
On 27 March it was reported that Roskomnadzor had included the website of Svyato-Vvedensky parish of Rostov on the Register of Banned Sites. As of 30 March, a message “The requested page could not be found” could be seen when attempting to access the site.
On 5 March Roskomnadzor reported that it had issued warnings in late February 2013 to the editorial boards of Argumenty i Fakty newspaper and the Polit.ru online news service for republishing a video clip by the Pussy Riot punk collective. The video had been previously been defined by a court as extremist.
On 19 March Roskomnadzor added to the Register of Banned Sites a page from the online blog of popular writer Leonid Kaganov that featured the lyrics to a satirical song from a 1990s TV show — supposedly for encouraging suicide. A blog post in which Kaganov commented on this ban was then added to the register — and then so was his entire blog, even though, on the request of Roskomnadzor, Kaganov removed the contentious lyrics from his blog.
On 26 March the Sakhalin regional court reversed a previous Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk city court decision not to ban the ISP Rostelekom from allowing access to a website containing information about giving bribes. The ISP must now restrict access to the site.
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)Tags: Andrei Soldatov | Artistic Freedom | Authoritarian | censorship | digital freedom | extremism | freedom of expression | internet | Russia
Don’t miss the spring issue of Index on Censorship magazine. Post Charlie Hebdo our commentators take a global view at how threats are being used to stop writers and artists, with Ariel Dorfman, David Edgar, Father Ted’s Arthur Mathews, Turkish novelist Elif Shafak and others. Also, major general Tim Cross and internet guru Martha Lane Fox go head to head on national security versus privacy, and Ismail Einashe on the perils of escaping from Eritrea.