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Internet censorship in Russia


Internet censorship in Russia

This article is part of a series on the
politics and government of

Internet censorship in the Russian Federation is enforced based on Russian Internet Restriction Bill, federal law "On Protecting Children from Information Harmful to Their Health and Development" and other laws. The law took effect on 1 November 2012 and instituted a Federal blacklist maintained by the Federal Service for Supervision of Communications, Information Technology and Mass Media for the censorship of individual URLs, domain names, and IP addresses.

The law is outlined in a government decree issued on 26 October 2012.[1] The blacklist was originally introduced to block sites that contain materials advocating drug abuse and production, suicide, and child pornography. Later, the law was amended to allow the blockage of sites containing materials that advocate extremism[2] or any other content subject to a gag order. These regulations have been frequently abused to block criticism of the federal government or local administration.[3]


  • Status 1
  • SORM 2
  • Blacklist law 3
    • Reaction to the blacklist 3.1
  • Data retention law 4
  • Instances of censorship 5
  • See also 6
  • References 7
  • External links 8


Russia was found to engage in selective Internet filtering in the political and social areas and no evidence of filtering was found in the conflict/security and Internet tools areas by the OpenNet Initiative in December 2010.[4]

Russia was on Reporters Without Borders list of countries under surveillance from 2010 to 2013[5] and was moved to the Internet Enemies list in 2014.[6]

In 2004 only a minority of Russians (8% of the population) had Internet access.[7] In May 2008, some 32.7 million users in Russia had access to the Internet (almost 30% of the population).[8] In 2012, 75.9 million Russians (53% of the population) had access.[9]

Following his visit to Russia in 2004, Álvaro Gil-Robles, then Commissioner for Human Rights of Council of Europe, noted the high quality of news and reaction speed of Russia's Internet media. Virtually all the main newspapers were available on-line, some even opting for Web as a sole information outlet. Russia's press agencies (including the most important Ria-Novosti and Itar-Tass) were also well represented in the Web.[7]

In April 2008 Agence France-Presse noted that, "The Internet is the freest area of the media in Russia, where almost all television and many newspapers are under formal or unofficial government control".[10]

As reported by Kirill Pankratov in April 2009 in The Moscow Times:

Even discounting the chaotic nature of the web, there is plenty of Russian-language material on political and social issues that is well-written and represents a wide range of views. This does not mean, though, that most Russians are well-informed of the important political and social issues of today. But this is largely a matter of personal choice, not government restrictions. If somebody is too lazy to make just a few clicks to read and become aware of various issues and points of view, maybe he deserves to be fed bland, one-sided government propaganda.[11]

In a November 2009 address to the Federal Assembly, President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev acknowledged that Russia was ranked only as the world's 63rd country based on estimates of the level of communications infrastructure development. He stressed the necessity to provide broadband Internet access on the whole Russia's territory in five years, and to manage the transition to digital TV, as well as the 4G of cellular wireless standards.[12]

In 2010

First countywide judicial measures against the Russian Internet users were taken by the government in 2012, during the wave of 2011–13 Russian protests when the Internet blacklist law was enacted. The list initially only included child pornography, advocating suicide and illegal drugs, but shortly was extended to include "extremist materials", which, in practice, can be used to block virtually any content due to its very flexible interpretation. Popular opposition websites encouraging protests against the court rulings in Bolotnaya Square case were for example blocked for "calling for illegal action"; Dumb Ways to Die, a public transport safety video, was blocked as "suicide propaganda"; websites discussing federalisation of Siberia — as "attack on the foundations of the constitution"; article on a gay activist being fired from job — as "propaganda of non-traditional sex relations"; publishing Pussy Riot logo — as "insult of the feelings of believers"; criticism of overspending of local governor — "insult of the authorities"; publishing a poem in support of Ukraine — "inciting hatred" etc.[3] A separate class of materials blocked based on the "extremism" are reglious publications, mostly Muslim and Jehovah's Witnesses. Bans can be challenged in courts, and in some cases these appeals are successful.[13][14]

In 2015 an Association of Internet Users in Russia published a map of freedom of speech violations in different regions of Russia in 2014, stating that the number of violations has increased by 150% as compared to the previous year. The incidents documented include not only instances of Internet censorship but also physical force such as beating of bloggers or police raids.[15]

In 2015 Council of Security of Russian Federation proposed a number of further Internet controls to prevent hostile "influence on the population of the country, especially young people, intended to weaken cultural and spiritual values". Prevention of this "influence" also includes active countermeasures such as actions targeted at the population and young people of the states attempting to weaken Russia's cultural values.[16]


SORM, a System for Operative Investigative Activities, was amended in July 1998 to allow monitoring of the Internet in addition to telephone communications. SORM allows law enforcement agents to monitor Internet traffic and requires ISPs to assist law enforcement in their investigations. In late 2000, the Russian Supreme Court ruled that the law enforcement agents are required to obtain a warrant and inform ISPs when the SORM is going to be used.

Blacklist law

In July 2012, the State Duma passed a law calling for the formation of an Internet blacklist—taking effect on 1 November 2012. The blacklist, administered by the Federal Service for Supervision of Communications, Information Technology and Mass Media (Roskomnadzor) and Federal Drug Control Service of Russia, was at that time described as means for the protection of children from harmful content; particularly that which glorifies drug usage, advocates suicide or describes suicide methods, or contain child pornography.[17]

Roskomnadzor offers a website where users can check to see whether a given URL or IP address is in the blacklist, and can also report websites which contain prohibited materials authorities. After a submission is verified, Roskomnadzor will inform the website's owner and hosting provider.[18] If the material is not removed within three days, the website will be added to the blacklist, and all Russian ISPs must block it.[19] The full content of the blacklist is available to ISPs, but not to the general public,[18] although soon after it was implemented, a leaked list of blacklisted websites was published by a LiveJournal user on 12 November 2012.[20]

In Russian, the blacklist is officially called the Единый реестр доменных имён, указателей страниц сайтов в сети «Интернет» и сетевых адресов, позволяющих идентифицировать сайты в сети «Интернет», содержащие информацию, распространение которой в Российской Федерации запрещено, which translates to Common register of domain names, Internet website page locators, and network addresses that allow identifying Internet websites which contain information that is prohibited for distribution in the Russian Federation. Russian sources generally refer to it under the shortened name "Common register of prohibited websites" (Единый реестр запрещённых сайтов)[21] or Common register of websites with prohibited information (Единый реестр сайтов с запрещённой информацией).[22] English-language sources for the most part simply refer to it as the country's Internet blacklist.[17][18][23]

In 2013 the blacklist law was, as expected by the human rights activists, amended with a clause to block content "suspected in extremism", mentioning explicitly actions such as "calling for illegal meetings", "inciting hatred" and any other actions "violating the established order".[24]

Reaction to the blacklist

Reporters Without Borders criticized the procedure by which entries are added to the blacklist as "extremely opaque", and viewed it as part of an attack on the freedom of information in Russia.[25] In 2012, when the banned content only included child pornography, drugs and suicide, the human rights activists have expressed fear that the blacklist may be used to censor democracy-oriented websites[17] (which indeed happened the next year[24]). And a editorial noted that the criteria for prohibited content are so broad that even the website of the ruling United Russia party could in theory be blacklisted.[26] However, the idea was at that time generally supported by the Russian public: in a September 2012 Levada Center survey, 63% of respondents had expressed support for "Internet censorship",[27][28] though any kind of censorship is banned under the Constitution of Russia.

Electronic Frontier Foundation has criticized the blacklist, stating: "EFF is profoundly opposed to government censorship of the Internet, which violates its citizens right to freedom of expression... We are especially concerned about the censorship of independent news and opposing political views, which are essential to a thriving civil society. Russians who wish to circumvent government censorship can continue to read these websites via the Tor Browser."[29]

Data retention law

On 23 July 2014, the State Duma passed a data retention law as an amendment to existing anti-terrorism legislation. The law will require all web services to store the user data of Russians on servers within the country. Sites which do not comply with this requirement by September 2016 may be blocked by the government.[30][31]

Since August 2014 the law requires operators of free Wi-Fi hotspots (e.g. in restaurants, libraries, cafes etc.) to collect personal details of all users and identify them using passports.[32]

Instances of censorship

A number of websites maintain lists of websites currently blocked in Russia, based on different sources of information.[33][34]

  • In 2004 Russia pressured Lithuania, and in 2006 Sweden, into shutting down the Kavkaz Center website, a site that supports creation of a Sharia state in North Caucasus and hosts videos of terrorist attacks on Russian forces in the North Caucasus.[35][36][37]
  • During the December 2008 demonstrations in Vladivostok,[38] it was reported by the Kontury news website that FSB officers issued a request that moderators of the ru_auto Internet community remove stories about the protests. The major reason, as reported by a moderator of the resource, was that repeating posts containing information about the protests worsened people's attitudes. The moderator in question requested bloggers to publish only unique posts about protest actions.[39]
  • In December 2009, Internet provider Yota, with over 100,000 subscribers[40] blocked access to some Russian opposition Internet resources for its Moscow-based subscribers for a few days. This occurred after the chief prosecutor of St. Petersburg recommended that the company prevent access to extremist resources. The only Internet resource listed as extremist by the Ministry of Justice of Russia at the time was that of the Caucasian separatists, Since the evening of 6 December 2009, Yota allowed access to all previously blocked resources except[41][42]
  • On 8 April 2012, it was confirmed by Roskomnadzor that several Russian and English WorldHeritage articles had been blacklisted.[43]
  • In July 2012, the Russian State Duma passed the Bill 89417-6, which provided a blacklist of Internet sites.[44][45] The blacklist was officially launched in November 2012, despite criticism by major websites and NGOs.[17]
  • The IP address of (Lurkomorye) was blocked on 11 November 2012 after a decision of the Federal Drug Control Service of Russia; the owner of the site told journalists he did not receive any communication from Roskomnadzor or the Federal Drug Control Service before the IP address was blacklisted.[46][47] was removed from the blacklist on 13 November 2012 after the website administrators deleted two marijuana-related articles.[48]
  • The IP address of the Librusec online library was blacklisted on 11 November 2012.[49] According to a leaked copy of the blacklist, it was blocked for a description of marijuana soup in a Russian translation of The Anarchist Cookbook.[20] The IP address was unblocked on 13 November after The Anarchist Cookbook was removed by Librusec administrators.[50][51]
  • On 31 March 2013 the New York Times reported that Russia was "Selectively Blocking [the] Internet".[52]
  • On 5 April 2013, a spokesperson for Roskomnadzor confirmed that the Russian WorldHeritage had been blacklisted because of the article, "Cannabis smoking".[53][54]
  • In March 2014, in the midst of the Crimean crisis, the LiveJournal blog of Alexei Navalny, and were blocked by the government. These sites, which opposed the Russian government, were blocked for "making calls for unlawful activity and participation in mass events held with breaches of public order."[55]
  • In August 2014 a number of websites were blocked as the war in Donbass developed, including the Ukrainian news site,,[56] a survey about the separation of the Caucasus from Russia[57] and numerous announcements and commentaries about the "march for Siberia federalisation".[58]
  • In 2014, a media blackout was launched against a performance art project called Monstration scheduled for 17 August. Roskomnadzor issued warnings to fourteen media outlets for reporting the announcement.[59] The project was compared to Euromaidan, which led to the 2014 Ukrainian revolution.
  • In October 2014 Roskomnadzor blocked the . A number of websites listing blocked addresses was also blocked, including such as [60]
  • In October and December 2014, a popular source code repository, GitHub, was temporarily blocked for hosting a page containing (mostly) satirical suicide instructions, frequently used to troll the Russian censorship system.[61]
  • In December 2014 a Facebook page protesting an event against the prosecution of Alexey Navalny was blocked in the Russian Federation. A Roskomnadzor representative stated that the page was blocked because it promoted an "unsanctioned mass event".[62]
  • In January 2015 a number of [63]
  • An on-line article by Yulia Latynina in Novaya Gazeta was blocked for unspecified "extremism", most likely a suggestion that "Russian culture only became great when it mixed with European".[64]
  • After a Russian consumer protection watchdog OZPP published a warning for Russian tourists about possibility of being denied EU visas after visiting Crimea,[65] explaining that from the international law point of view Crimea is an occupied territory, Roskomnadzor blocked the OZPP website "for threatenting territorial integrity of Russian federation".[66]
  • In June 2015, some ISPs blocked the Internet Archive entirely following an order to censor a page contained within for containing "extremist" material. These blocks were a side effect of the site's use of HTTPS possibly being incompatible with how ISPs implement their filters.[67]
  • On 21 July 2015 the official website of Jehovah's Witnesses was banned throughout the Russian Federation. Jehovah's Witnesses say that the motion to ban them was originally filed on 7 August 2013[68] but was overturned after they voluntarily removed certain publications from the version of the site presented to Russian IP addresses.[69] However, on December 2, 2014 the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation ovurturned the Regional Court, stating that the Witnesses might choose to reinstate the materials they had volunteered to remove.[70]
  • As of August 2015, 4 WorldHeritage articles remain blocked in Russia, and more than 25 were blocked for some time. Most of these articles are related to drugs and suicide.[71]

See also


  1. ^ "Постановление Правительства Российской Федерации от 26 октября 2012 г. N 1101 г. Москва" [Decree of the Government of the Russian Federation no. 1101 of 26 October 2012 in the city of Moscow] (in Russian).  
  2. ^ Paul Goble (2015-03-29). "FSB Increasingly Involved in Misuse of ‘Anti-Extremism’ Laws, SOVA Says". The Interpreter Magazine. Retrieved 2015-04-01. 
  3. ^ a b "Examples of forbidden content". 2014. Retrieved 2014-10-29. 
  4. ^ "ONI Country Profiles", Research section at the OpenNet Initiative web site, a collaborative partnership of the Citizen Lab at the Munk School of Global Affairs, University of Toronto; the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University; and the SecDev Group, Ottawa
  5. ^ Internet Enemies, Reporters Without Borders (Paris), 12 March 2012
  6. ^ "Internet Enemies", Enemies of the Internet 2014: Entities at the heart of censorship and surveillance, Reporters Without Borders (Paris), 11 March 2014. Retrieved 24 June 2014.
  7. ^ a b "Report by Mr. Alvaro Gil-Robles on his Visits to the Russian Federation".  
  8. ^ 33m internet users in Russia, IT & Telecoms in Russia
  9. ^ "Percentage of Individuals using the Internet 2000-2012", International Telecommunications Union (Geneva), June 2013, retrieved 22 June 2013
  10. ^ "Russian prosecutors eye Internet censorship", Agence France-Presse (AFP), 23 April 2008.
  11. ^ Russia "Is No Enemy of the Internet", Kirill Pankratov, The Moscow Times, 8 April 2009
  12. ^ "Address to the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation" (full text) (Russian), (digest) , November 2009
  13. ^ Service, Forum 18 News. "Forum 18 Archive: RUSSIA: Bans on more literature, website and video - 3 December 2014". Retrieved 2015-08-23. 
  14. ^ Service, Forum 18 News. "Forum 18 Archive: RUSSIA: More literature, website and video bans, but one partially overturned - 20 March 2015". Retrieved 2015-08-23. 
  15. ^ "Russia Update: Government Further Restricts Internet Freedom". The Interpreter Magazine. 2015-02-04. Retrieved 2015-02-04. 
  16. ^ "Совбез РФ будет бороться с "размыванием духовных ценностей" в интернете". Новая Газета. Retrieved 2015-10-19. 
  17. ^ a b c d "Russia internet blacklist law takes effect". BBC. 31 October 2012. Retrieved 3 November 2012. 
  18. ^ a b c "Russian ‘internet blacklist’ goes online".  
  19. ^ "Russia's New Internet Blacklist".  
  20. ^ a b Список запрещенных сайтов утек в интернет [The list of prohibited websites has been leaked on the Internet] (in Russian).  
  21. ^ Единый реестр запрещённых сайтов начинает свою работу (in Russian).  
  22. ^ Единый реестр сайтов с запрещенной информацией начнет свою работу (in Russian).  
  23. ^ "Russia launches internet blacklist to protect the kiddies". The Register. 1 November 2012. Retrieved 3 November 2012. 
  24. ^ a b "Путин подписал закон о блокировке сайтов за экстремизм". Retrieved 2015-08-23. 
  25. ^ "Internet access barred as wave of new legislation threatens freedom of information".  
  26. ^ Подсудный день (in Russian).  
  27. ^ "Россияне поддерживают цензуру в Интернете" ("Russians support censorship of the Internet"), Levada Center, 10 October 2012. (Russian). (English translation).
  28. ^ "Over 60% of Russians want Internet censorship - poll", Interfax News, 11 October 2012
  29. ^ "Russia Blocks Access to Major Independent News Sites | Electronic Frontier Foundation". 2014-03-13. Retrieved 2014-03-17. 
  30. ^ "Facebook, Gmail, Skype face Russia ban under 'anti-terror' plan". CNET. 23 July 2014. Retrieved 24 July 2014. 
  31. ^ "Russian MPs back law on internet data storage". BBC News. Retrieved 24 July 2014. 
  32. ^ "Passport now required to use public Wi-Fi in Russia". RAPSI. 2014-08-08. Retrieved 2014-09-22. 
  33. ^ "". Retrieved 2014-08-02. 
  35. ^ "Lithuania shuts Chechen rebel site", BBC News, 18 September 2004
  36. ^ "Chechen rebel website reopens", BBC News, 8 October 2004
  37. ^ "Sweden Closed Kavkaz Center On Request From Russia", Education and Media section at, 6 May 2006
  38. ^ Protests on Car Tariffs Erupt in Russia, New York Times, 22 December 2008
  39. ^
  40. ^ "Yota: subscriber growth", 18 August 2009
  41. ^ "Абоненты расследуют «фильтрацию» оппозиционных сайтов" ("Subscribers are investigating the 'filtering' of opposition websites"), Olga Ivanova, New Russia News Agency (NR2), 3 December 2009, (Russian). (English translation)).
  42. ^ "Абоненты Yota несколько дней не имели доступа к оппозиционным сайтам" ("Yota blocked access to opposition sites for several days"), Lenta.Ru, 7 December 2009 (Russian). (English translation).
  43. ^ "Стал известен полный список статей, на данный момент внесённый в реестр Роскомнадзора (ru, en)" ("He became known for a complete list of articles, currently entered in the register Roskomnadzora (ru, en)"), Wikimedia RU. Retrieved 18 July 2013.
  44. ^ Internet Restriction Bill Passes First Reading, The Moscow Times, 8 July 2012, retrieved 9 July 2012
  45. ^ "Law concerning the illegal websites register has come into force", Lyudmila Ternovaya, Кызыл тан, 30 July 2012, accessed 7 August 2012
  46. ^ Интернет-энциклопедию "Луркоморье" внесли в реестр запрещенных сайтов [The "Lurkomorye" Internet encyclopedia has been added to the register of prohibited websites] (in Russian).  
  47. ^ Закрыть можно что угодно по произвольному набору критериев" Владелец Lurkmore о блокировке сайта" ["Anything can be banned using an arbitrary set of criteria." The owner of Lurkmore talks about the website being blocked]"" (in Russian). Afisha. 12 November 2012. Retrieved 13 November 2012. 
  48. ^ "Луркоморье" исключили из реестра запрещенных сайтов [Lurkomorye has been removed from the register of prohibited websites] (in Russian).  
  49. ^ "Заблокирован IP Либрусека. Госорганы добрались до библиотек" [The Librusec IP is blocked. The authorities have started targeting libraries.] (in Russian). RuBlackList. 12 November 2012. Retrieved 12 November 2012. 
  50. ^ Либрусек" и Rutracker исключили из реестра сайтов с запрещенной информацией""" (in Russian).  
  51. ^ Библиотека "Либрусек" удалила "Поваренную книгу анархиста" (in Russian).  
  52. ^ "Russians Selectively Blocking Internet". New York Times. 31 March 2013. 
  53. ^ "Russia May Block WorldHeritage Access Over Narcotics Article", RIA Novosti, 5 April 2013
  54. ^ "Russian media regulator confirms WorldHeritage blacklisted", Interfax News, 5 April 2013
  55. ^ "Russia censors media by blocking websites and popular blog". Agence France-Presse. 14 March 2014. Retrieved 24 July 2014. 
  56. ^ "Информация из реестра по". Antizapret. Retrieved 2014-08-02. 
  57. ^ "Информация из списка минюста по". Antizapret. Retrieved 2014-08-02. 
  58. ^ "Информация из реестра по". Antizapret. Retrieved 2014-08-02. 
  59. ^ "Authorities in Novosibirsk ban march to press for changing Siberia's status in Russia". The Siberian Times. 5 August 2014. Retrieved 5 August 2014. 
  60. ^ "". 2014. Retrieved 2014-10-29. 
  61. ^ "GitHub снова оказался в реестре запрещенных в РФ сайтов (судя по всему надолго)". OpenNet. 2014-12-02. Retrieved 2014-12-03. 
  62. ^ Andrew Roth, David M. Herszenhorn (2014-12-22). "Facebook Page Goes Dark, Angering Russia Dissidents". Retrieved 2014-12-24. 
  63. ^ "Russia blocks bitcoin websites over "shadow economy" fears". GigaOm. 2015-01-13. Retrieved 2015-01-13. 
  64. ^ "Novaya Gazeta Loses Court Challenge to Russian State Censor". The Interpreter Magazine. 2015-02-02. Retrieved 2015-02-03. 
  65. ^ "Правозащитники рассказали об отказах в выдаче виз после поездок в Крым". Retrieved 2015-06-23. 
  66. ^ "Роскомнадзор распорядился заблокировать сайт Общества защиты прав потребителей". Retrieved 2015-06-23. 
  67. ^ "Wayback Machine’s 485 billion web pages blocked by Russian government order". Ars Technica. Retrieved 28 June 2015. 
  68. ^ by the Central District Court of the city of Tver, located 100 miles (160 km) north of Moscow
  69. ^ On 22 January 2014 the Regional Court of Tver reversed the earlier ruling by the lower court. The Regional Court conducted a new trial, which concluded that the decision of the Central District Court was unjustified."Russian Court Overturns Attempt to Ban Bible-Education", Johovah's Witnesses, 21 January 2014. Retrieved 23 January 2014.
  70. ^ Russia bans, Jehovah's Witnesses July 2015
  71. ^ Википедия:Страницы Википедии, внесённые в Единый реестр запрещённых сайтов, Retrieved 2015-08-21

External links

  • Official website of the Russian Internet blacklist
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