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By Andrei Soldatov / 13 June 2013
April saw a bizarre variety of sites blocked by the Russian authorities or internet service providers – among them Pussy Riot videos, Wikipedia, the Yandex search engine, Blogger blogs, sites promoting bribery and corruption, sites of land developers and the humorous anti-encyclopaedia Absurdopedia (the Russian version of Uncyclopedia). Even the parody website Gospoisk (gossearch.ru) was blocked. The site is a fake search engine, ostensibly created with government support: when a visitor types a query in the search box, he or she is asked to enter his first and last name, patronymic, passport details, address and the reason for the request. Compiled by Andrei Soldatov
On 23 April, it was reported that the Atkarskiy inter-district prosecutor of the Saratov region had found websites with extremist materials to be accessible from computers installed in the computer labs of several schools. Nine were ordered to cease the violations.
On 22 April, the Republic of Bashkortostan public prosecutor reported that the Buzdyaksky district prosecutor had filed a court request to block websites containing extremist materials accessible to high school students in the towns of Tyuryushevo, Tashlykul, Kopei-Kubovo and Gafuri. No content filtering software was installed on the school computers.
On 17 April, the Kalmykia Republic prosecutor reported that computers in seven schools of Lagansky district allowed access to extremist materials and materials that advocate violence and cruelty. The district prosecutor filed seven claims against the regional branch of the internet service provider Rostelecom demanding limits on access. On 16 April, the court granted two claims; the remaining five claims were dropped because the ISP complied voluntarily.
On 17 April, the Samara regional prosecutor reported that students of several educational institutions in Togliatti had access to undesirable sites. The Tsentralny district prosecutor told the Togliatti College of Service Technology and Entrepreneurship, the Inter-school Educational Plant and Secondary School No 5 to cease the violations. In addition, the prosecutor filed 48 lawsuits in order to block access to extremist materials and to websites containing information on smoking blends.
On 18 April, it was reported that the Nizhny Novgorod regional Court ordered the administration of the Diveevsk secondary school to block student access to websites with information about illegal drugs and pornographic materials. The school has 30 days to comply with the court’s decision.
On 19 April, the Republic of Karelia prosecutor reported that computers in five schools in Sortavalsky district had been found to provide access to extremist websites. In particular, students had access to the texts of the songs by the neo-Nazi skinhead metal band Kolovrat – “Honour and Blood” (Krov’ i chest’), “Russia” (Rossiia), “The Aryan Revenge” (Ariysky Revansh), “Moscow skinheads” (Moskovskiye Britogolovye), “Glory to Russia” (Slava Rossii) – included on the Federal List of Extremist Materials. In addition, they found books from the list to be publicly accessible, including the Nazi ideologue Alfred Rosenberg’s Memoirs and various other titles. The district prosecutor demanded that the schools stop these violations. Those responsible face disciplinary charges.
On 11 April, it was reported that the Zheleznogorsky district prosecutor in the Kursk region had filed a lawsuit against an ISP demanding that it limit access to harmful websites from several educational institutions. Computers at the Vocational School or Arts and the Vocational School of Service and Commerce in Zheleznogorsk had been found to allow access to extremist websites and to websites with information about the sale and manufacture of illegal drugs.
On 11 April, it was reported that the Omsk prosecutor had found that extremist materials were accessible from computers in the classrooms of three (unnamed) schools. The prosecutor went to court demanding that student access to extremist websites be blocked.
On 9 April, it was reported that the Perelyubsky district prosecutor of the city of Balakovo in the Saratov region had found that the content filters installed in the district’s schools did not adequately protect students from extremist materials. The prosecutor demanded action from the local education authorities.
On 5 April, it was reported that the Anadyr district prosecutor in Chukotka autonomous region had found that students of the S Vaenga Centre for Education had access to extremist and pornographic websites because the institution’s computers had no content filters installed. The head of the centre was told to stop the violations.
On 4 April, the Komi Republic prosecutor reported that the Izhemskiy district prosecutor had found websites with propaganda for illegal drugs, pornography and extremism accessible from computers in secondary schools in Kelchiyur and Nyashabozh. The prosecutor told the education authorities to cease the violations, and those responsible face disciplinary charges.
On 4 April, it was reported that the Novomoskovsk city prosecutor in Tula had found that the content filtering systems installed on computers in Novomoskovsk Polytechnic College were failing adequately to protect students from publications on the Federal List of Extremist Materials. Similar violations were detected in High School No 17 of Novomoskovsk. The heads of these educational institutions were told to cease the violations.
On 3 April, the Lipetsk regional prosecutor reported that the prosecutors of Dobrinsky, Dolgorukovsky, Lev-Tolstovsky and Sovetsky districts had found several websites containing extremist material to be accessible from the school computers, even though the schools had content filtering systems installed. The prosecutor ordered the ISPs to restrict student access to extremist materials.
On 23 April, the Primorsky regional prosecutor announced that the Vladivostok city prosecutor had filed a lawsuit against an ISP for failing to restrict access to a site hosting more than 560 publications on the Federal List of Extremist Materials. The prosecutors demanded that access to these materials be blocked. The Frunzenskiy district court of Vladivostok granted their request.
On 23 April, the Kamchatka regional prosecutor reported that the Yelizovo City prosecutor had filed a lawsuit demanding that the ISP AMH restrict access to a website containing materials recognised in court as extremist.
On 24 April, it was reported that the Pervomaiskiy district prosecutor of Vladivostok had demanded that the director of the Dalniy Vostok branch of the ISP Rostelecom cease hosting hosting a website, dsv.video.disland.ru, containing video materials “with content identical to the video Poslednee interviiu Primorskikh Partizan [The Last Interview of Primorye Guerillas], listed on the Federal List of Extremist Materials”. The provider complied with the prosecutor demands.
On 22 April, the federal telecoms regulator Roscomnadzor issued warnings for “inciting religious hatred” to editors and founders of the websites grani.ru, polit.ru, obeschaniya.ru and the portal sibkray.ru for publishing material on Novosibirsk artist and activist Artem Loskutov. Loskutov was fined for insulting religious feelings, after distributing T-shirts with an image of the Pussy Riot collective stylised as a devotional icon. The websites had reported on the case.
On 15 April, the Nizhny Novgorod regional prosecutor reported that the Islamist tract Fruits of Belief from the Risale-i-Nur collection, included on the Federal List of Extremist Materials, was found to be publicly available on a website. The Moscovsky district prosecutor of Nizhny Novgorod filed six claims with the district court against the ISPs Technologiia and UNIT, demanding that they limit access to the material, possibly blocking the entire site.
On 16 April, the Altai regional prosecutor reported that on March 26 a court granted a petition of the Leninsky district prosecutor of Barnaul against the ISP SibGruppInvest demanding that it restrict access to a website hosting a book entitled The World After the Race War, which is labelled as extremist. The court’s decision has not yet entered into force.
On 4 April, the Magassky district court declared the oppositional website ingushetiyaru.org to be extremist after complaints by the district prosecutor.
On 17 April, the Leninsky district court of Samara granted four requests by the prosecutor that the ISPs Kraft-S and Kraft-Telecom restrict access to several websites of the Islamist organisation Hizb ut-Tahrir.
On 9 April, it was announced that the Zaterechny district prosecutor in Vladikavkaz had requested that the district court block five websites (www.invivio.net, www.kinopod.ru, www.kinofilms.tv, www.yahoou.ru, www.video.bigmir.net), that carried the anti-semitic film The Eternal Jew (Vechny zhid) and a book entitled White Primer (Belyi Bukvar’), both of which are on the Federal List of Extremist Materials. The court granted the requests in full.
On 11 April, it was reported that the Kirov district prosecutor in Ufa had demanded that the ISPs TTK-Center, BashTelekomServis and Sotovaia Sviaz’ Bashkortostana limit access to the sites that published the right-wing nationalist Yuri Mukhin’s book Za derzhavu obidno (I am Offended for my Country), which is on the Federal List of Extremist Materials.
On 1 April, it was reported that the Samara city prosecutor had identified two publicly accessible websites of the Islamist group Hizb ut-Tahrir . The prosecutor issued 32 requests to the district courts of Leninsky, Samarsky and Zheleznodorozhny of Samara 32 that they make ISPs restrict access to the sites.
On 2 April, the Samara regional prosecutor said that the Samarsky district prosecutor had found a website carrying the text of Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf. The prosecutor asked the court to demand that the ISP Informatsionnyi Meditsinsky Tsentr limit access to the site.
On 22 April, the Novotroitskiy city court in Orenburg granted a request of the Novotroitskiy city prosecutor that an ISP be made to restrict access to a website containing information on ways to commit suicide.
On 16 April, it was reported that the Glazov inter-district prosecutor in Udmurtia had requested a court order to make the local ISP Krein restrict access to a number of online casinos. The court granted the request.
On 16 April, it was reported that the Zasviyazhskiy district prosecutor of Ulyanovsk had filed a lawsuit against the ISP DARS-IP demanding that it block access to foreign gambling sites. The websites in question include Eurogrand, Prestigecasino, Azartplay, Casino.williamhill, Cristal-slots, and Twistcasino.
On 17 April, the Republic of Karelia prosecutor reported that the Medvezhiegorsky district court had granted in full a district prosecutor’s request that an ISP block access to 25 gambling websites.
On 19 April, the Samara regional prosecutor reported that the Leninsky district court of Chapayevsk had granted 10 requests to restrict access to gambling websites. The regional prosecutor also reported that on 16 March the Kirovsky district court of Samara had granted two requests to make ISPs restrict access to gambling sites.
On 9 April, it was reported that the prosecutor of the Moscow district of Kaliningrad had filed a lawsuit against the internet providers demanding that they limit access to pyramid-scheme impresario Sergey Mavrodi’s MMM-2012 website.
On 31 March, it was reported that the Nizhegorodsky district court of Nizhny Novgorod had granted in full the request of the Kulebaksk city prosecutor that ISPs be made to limit access to a gambling website. The court’s decision has entered into force. The regional branch of Rostelecom restricted access to the website by adding IP-address filtering of its address to its routers and filtering by site name on its network servers.
On 5 April, the Karelia Republica prosecutor reported that the Medvezhiegorsky district court had granted its requests for restrictions on access to pyramid-scheme impresario Sergey Mavrodi’s MMM-2011 and MMM-2012 websites.
On 9 April, it was announced that the Orel regional court had overturned the refusal of the Zavodskoy district court to consider a prosecutor’s request to restrict access to several gambling websites. The requests have now been filed again in the same district Court.
On 8 April, the Saratov regional prosecutor announced that Saratov regional court had overturned a November 2012 decision by the Kirov district court to dismiss demands by the Kirov district prosecutor that the ISP Altura limit access to a website giving details of where to buy illegal drugs. The decision granted the prosecutor request for a ban on access to the website.
On 10 April, it was reported that after a request from the regional charitable organisation Sakhalin without Drugs (Sakhalin bez narkotikov), the federal telecoms regulator Roscomnadzor had added a page from the Odnoklassniki.ru social network containing information about purchasing illegal drugs to the Register of Banned Sites. Access to the page has been closed.
On 9 April, the Chelyabinsk regional prosecutor reported that the Yemanzhelinsk city prosecutor had successfully requested that a court make the ISP TelKom block websites promoting drug use and carrying pornography.
On 2 April, administrators of Wikipedia were notified that the federal telecoms regulator Roscomnadzor was adding the online encyclopedia to the Register of Banned Sites for the entry “Cannabis smoking”. On 10 April, it was announced that the entry had been edited. The links to it were removed from register, and it was not blocked.
On 1 April, it was reported that the Saratov regional prosecutor prosecution had filed court claims against ISPs in order to block access to 10 sites detailing where to buy illegal drugs and how to use them.
On 23 April, the ISP Rostelecom blocked the Yandex search engine website for 23 minutes because an advertisement for psychotropic substances had been made available via some IP addresses that coincided with IP-addresses used by Yandex. An attempt to visit www.yandex.ru resulted in a notification that the search engine had been included on the register of banned sites. The action was based on a decision of the Maykop city court in a case related to blocking websites offering illegal drugs. The list of IP address provided as a result of this court decision included the Yandex site. Rostelecom removed Yandex’s address from the list.
On 23 April, the Sverdlovsk regional prosecutor announced that the Oktyabrsky district prosecutor of Yekaterinburg had filed four court claims requesting that the Ural branch of Rostelecom limit access to four sites promoting smoking blends.
On 26 April, it was reported that Rostelecom had blocked access to the parody website Gospoisk (gossearch.ru). The site is a fake search engine, ostensibly created with support from the Ministry of Communications and Rostelecom. When a site visitor types a query in the search box, he or she is asked to enter his or her first and last name, patronymic, passport details, address and the reason for his or her request. If the user answers these questions, the site generates a request number and recommends the user visit the nearest office of the Ministry of Communications and show this request number. According to Rostelecom, the site was blocked by the decision of the Pskov city court because the gossearch.ru address coincided with the address of a gambling site. As of 28 April, the site was accessible in Moscow.
On 12 April, the prosecutor of the Republic of Chechnya identified three websites containing information on manufacturing weapons. The prosecutor filed three claims with the Leninsky district court in Grozny to restrict access to these sites.
On 18 April, at the request of the Federation of Jewish Communities of Russia, the VKontakte social network blocked several anti-semitic user groups that included posts containing incitement to violence and recognised by courts as extremist.
On 8 April, the prosecutor of the Republic of Bashkortostan reported that Buzdyaksky district prosecutor had demanded that the ISP Bashinformsvyaz restrict access to websites detailing techniques of bribery. The provider has complied with the prosecutor requests.
On 9 April, it was reported that the Leninsky district prosecutor of Ufa had filed court claims against three ISPs demanding restrictions on access to a website detailing techniques of bribery.
On 5 April, it was reported that the federal consumer watchdog Rospotrebnadzor had added to the Register of Banned Websites the addresses of several online libraries, including BookFi.org and Sovremennik.ws.
On 1 April, it was reported that the Komsomolsky district court of Togliatti had granted a prosecutor’s request to make the ISP Flygo Telecom restrict access to websites offering fake university diplomas. The court’s decision has not yet entered into force.
On 29 March, it was announced that the federal telecoms regulator Roscomnadzor had issued four additional warnings for publishing a Pussy Riot video. The warnings were issued to the website Neva24.ru, portal KM.ru, and the news agencies New Region and Regions.ru.
On 1 April, the Obninsk city court considered rejected an appeal by Absurdopedia – the Russian version of the humorous spoof Uncyclopedia – against the November 2012 decision of the consumer watchdog Rospotrebnadzor to add it to the Register of Banned Websites.
On 3 April, it was reported that the ISPs Rostelecom and NKS were blocking technical materials and blogs in English on the blogspot.com platform in different regions for reasons unknown.
On 2 April, it was reported that the Yeisk district prosecutor in Krasnodar had filed a claim demanding that ISPs restrict access to websites belonging to construction companies Rodina and Kvartal and the sites rodina-kuban.ru, sil-kuban.ru, kvartal23.ru and stroim-anapu.ru. The developers used the sites to raise cooperative funds for the construction projects, which was prohibited.
On 10 April, the Altai regional prosecutor reported that the Tsenral’nyi district prosecutor in Barnaul had filed eight court claims against ISPs demanding that they restrict access to a website detailing how to make explosives at home.
On 10 April, it was reported that the Ulyanovsk regional prosecutor had filed a lawsuit against the regional branch of the ISP Rostelecom, demanding restrictions on access to websites that detail methods of bribery. The websites in question include Cripo.com, Glavnoe, Aloepole, Krasjob, Daslife, Scandalim, Bbcont, Homearchive, Tvoemnenie, Posovesti.
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)Andrei Soldatov | Authoritarian | censorship | Digital | Pussy Riot | Russia | wikipedia
Index on Censorship has dedicated its milestone 250th issue to exploring the increasing threats to reporters worldwide. Its special report, Truth in Danger, Danger in Truth: Journalists Under Fire and Under Pressure, is out soon. Highlights include Lindsey Hilsum, writing about her friend and colleague, the murdered war reporter Marie Colvin, and asking whether journalists should still be covering war zones. Stephen Grey looks at the difficulties of protecting sources in an era of mass surveillance.