Circling the Lion's Den

A Chronicle of Russian Internet Filtering / December 2012

ņŪšūŚť 31.01.2013 19:23:00

A Chronicle of Russian Internet Filtering /†December 2012

December provided further evidence that the Russian authorities’ prime targets in their quest to censor allegedly illegal websites are not those containing content harmful to children, as they have claimed, but those publicising “extremist” political views and offering online gambling.

In the meantime, a new trend has emerged in Russia. Institutions providing public access to the internet — schools, libraries, internet clubs and even post offices ó being targeted for law enforcement agency inspections to check whether their computers had been updated to prevent access to banned websites. Quite remarkably, the inspections in schools and educational institutes checked access not only to content harmful to children and students, but also to sites deemed extremist.

Regional prosecutorís offices have in several cases filed lawsuits against local administrations to demand that they provide funding for the installation of content filters on school computers.

Extremism

The Samara regional prosecutorís office reported on 4 December that the Kirov district prosecutorís office of Samara had filed seven claims against the ISP Svyazinvest, Lan-CTS, Indzhinium, and Samara-Koss. The prosecutor demanded that providers restrict access to pages containing extremist materials, including†The†Fortress of the Muslim†by Said Wahf al-Qahtani,†Prophet Muhammad Mustafa†by Osman Nuri Topbas, and†Council for Kings†by Abu Hamid al-Ghazali. All these books are included on the Federal List of Extremist Materials. The lawsuits are pending.

On 4 December the Yoshkar-Ola city prosecutorís office reported on the audit of compliance with the law on combating extremist activity. The inspection had found that website providing public access to†The International Jew†by Henry Ford, which is included on the Federal List of Extremist Materials, was accessible. The prosecutorís office filed a court claim against the local branches of the ISPs Rostelecom, Mobile TeleSystems, ER-Telecom Holding, MegaFon and Vympel-Communications demanding that they limit access to this website. The Yoshkar-Ola city court granted the request of the prosecutorís office.

Reports on 5 December said that Nizhneserginsky district prosecutorís office of the Sverdlovsk region had found publicly accessible sites that contained extremist materials, including the book†Who is Afraid of Russian National Socialism†by AA Dobrovolski and several Islamist tracts. The prosecutorís office filed a court claim against the ISP AtsTeleKom, demanding that it restrict access to these sites by installing IP-address filtering. The ISP voluntarily complied with the prosecutorís request.

On 7 December it was announced that the Moscow district prosecutorís office of Kaliningrad region, in the course of its audit of compliance with anti-extremist legislation, had found websites The Imarat Caucasus Service and The Official Site of Vilayat Dagestan, both recognised as extremist, to be publicly accessible. Based on the audit results, the prosecutorís office filed a court claim against the ISP TIS-Dialog, demanding that access to these sites be restricted. In the course of the trial, the ISP voluntarily complied with the request of the prosecutorís office and restricted access to these sites.

On 7 December it was reported that the Sudogodsky district prosecutorís office of Vladimir region had in the course of its audit of compliance with anti-extremist legislation found that students in several district schools had had access to prohibited content, in particular to radical Islamistsí calls for changing the constitutional order. Directors of several schools received orders to cease the violations and to hold the perpetrators accountable. The schools installed additional filters, and the responsible parties faced disciplinary charges.

Reports from 12 December revealed that Starominsky district prosecutorís office in Krasnodar region had found in the course of its audit that computers used for remote education of children with neurological and musculoskeletal disorders allowed access to websites containing extremist materials ďand other resources, inconsistent with the objectives of education and trainingĒ, as well as access to social networks. The prosecutor concluded that the Starominsky education department inadequately monitored the implementation of the federal National Priority Project for education. An order to cease the violation and to pursue disciplinary charges against perpetrators was sent to the head of municipal education in Starominsky.

The prosecutorís office of Samara region in Novokuibyshevsk†identified on 14 December prohibited materials posted on a number of sites, including materials recognised as extremist, information about the sale of illegal drugs and smoking mixtures, information on giving bribes and ways to avoid military service. The prosecutorís office has filed 40 lawsuits against the ISPs MIRS, NeksTellSamara, Progress-IT and TesKomVolga demanding that access to these sites be restricted. The lawsuits are pending.

The Ministry of Internal Affairs of Karachay-Cherkessia reported on 17 December that it had found a website featuring extremist materials to be publicly accessible at a Cherkessk internet club. The report will serve as a basis for determining an appropriate penalty for the club management and the ISP for failing to block access to the site.

On 17 December it became known that Kamchatka ISPs had received nine orders in December to cease their violations of the federal law on combating extremist activity. The orders were based on the results of a September audit by the prosecutorís office, which had revealed the fact of public access to†The Innocence of Muslims†online video.

It was announced on 19 December that the Novorossiysk department of the Interior Ministry Centre for Combating Extremism for Krasnodar region filed a complaint with the prosecutorís office relating to public accessibility in Gelendzhik of the website Vilayat Dagestan Independent Information and Analytics . The site had been recognised as extremist and included on the Federal List of Extremist Materials. Access had been provided by the local branch of the ISP MTS. The prosecutorís office issued a warning to the ISP.

On 20 December it was reported that the Dalmatovsky district prosecutorís office of Kurgan region had in the course of its audit had found that the ISP Rus had failed to limit access to a website recognised as extremist. The prosecutorís office filed a court claim against the provider, requesting a court order to restrict access to the website.

On 24 December the Primorye regional prosecutorís office announced that the Frunze district prosecutor in Vladivostok had found websites included in the Federal List of Extremist Materials to be publicly accessible. The local ISP Vladlink received an order to cease the violations of the law on combating extremist activity. The provider accepted the prosecutorís order by restricting access to extremist websites.

Reports on 21 December said that the Yagodninsky district prosecutorís office of Magadan region had in the course of its audit found a website was accessible that featured the Wahhabi Islamist tract†The Book of Monotheism, which isincluded on the Federal List of Extremist Materials. Prosecutors went to court demanding that the local ISP restrict access to the website by blocking its domain name.

On 25 December it was reported that the Oktyabrsky district prosecutorís office in Yekaterinburg had identified four sites that contained information on the distribution of drugs and advertised smoking blends.

In addition, the prosecutors identified websites that contained incitement to war and incitement to racial and religious hatred. The prosecutorís office filed four court claims against the ISP Uralwestcom demanding that it limit access to these sites. The Kirov district court of Yekaterinburg granted the request of the prosecutorís office in full.

On 25 December it was revealed that the prosecutorís office of the Lev Tolstoy district of Lipetsk region had in the course of its audit of ISPs found that computer software in the information sciences lab of the Kuzovlevo village school was not preventing students from accessing sites containing extremist material. The prosecutor filed a lawsuit demanding that the ISP Rostelecom block access to extremist websites.

On 26 December†The Innocence of Muslims†onlinevideo,†recognised as extremist by a 1 October decision of the Tver district court in Moscow, was added to the Federal List of Extremist Materials, as item 1589. The list features a YouTube address of the video. It has since been removed from the site but can still be found elsewhere on the internet.

Gambling and online casinos

It became known on 4 December that the Gvardeisky district prosecutorís office had filed a lawsuit against Rostelecom, requesting that it restrict access to gambling websites. The trial court dismissed the lawsuit, noting that the claims had to be filed against the site owners (game organisers), and not against the ISP. The†appeal court reversed the decision and granted the request of the prosecutorís office.

On 11 December it was reported that the Verkh-Iset district prosecutorís office of Yekaterinburg had identified several websites that conducted illegal online gambling. Access to these sites had been provided by the ISP INSIS. The prosecutorís office went to court demanding that the ISP restrict access to these sites by installing IP-address filtering on its routers. The Oktyabrsky district court in Yekaterinburg dismissed the claim due to the voluntary compliance with the prosecutorís request by the ISP.

Reports on 14 December said that Muravlenko city prosecutorís office of the Yamal-Nenets Autonomous District had in the course of its audit identified six websites registered outside Russia and intended for online gambling. The local branch of Rostelecom received an order to cease the violations. The ISP refused to comply with the prosecutorís request, citing lack of necessary equipment and insisting that access restrictions should be implemented by the hosting provider. Subsequently, the prosecutorís office went to court, demanding that the local branch of Rostelecom restrict access to the identified sites. The Salekhard city court granted the request of the prosecutorís office.

On 25 December it was reported that the Leningrad regional prosecutorís office had filed court claims in the Volkhov district demanding that the ISPs Etalon Optic and Volkhov Online block access to sites, identified by prosecutors as illegal online casinos. The court granted the request of the prosecutorís office

On 27 December the Novgorod regional prosecutorís office reported that in the course of inspection it had revealed a number of online casinos. The prosecutorís office had been to court in autumn 2012 demanding that the ISPs Alfakom and Novgorod Datacom restrict access to the identified sites by blocking their IP-addresses on its routers. In November, the court granted the prosecutorís office claims. Subscriber access to gambling sites has been blocked.

Internet in schools, libraries and post offices

On 12 December the Tambov regional prosecutorís office reported that articles aimed at inciting national hatred had been found to be publicly available in one of the Morshansk secondary vocational schools. The director of the school received an order to cease the violations by installing filtering rules on its routers. The prosecutorís office also insisted on disciplinary charges.

On 13 December it was reported that Gavrilovsky district prosecutorís office of Tambov region had, in the course of its audit of compliance with the law on combating extremist activity, identified materials recognised as extremist to be publicly accessible via the Gavrilovsky district library computer. Prosecutors demanded that the library administration restrict access to websites containing material aimed at inciting social, racial and religious hatred by installing filtering software on the library router.

It became known on 13 December that the Kirov district prosecutorís office of Ufa region had found that the local post office computers allow access to websites containing extremist materials and instructions for manufacturing drugs. The prosecutorís office filed a lawsuit against the post office demanding that it install content filters to block the identified sites. The court granted the request of the prosecutorís office.

On 13 December the results of the audit of compliance with the legislation aimed at protecting children from harmful material were announced. The audit was conducted by the Pereslavl-Zalessky interdistrict prosecutorís office. During the inspection two of the city schools were found to offer unrestricted access to the websites that contained pornography and propaganda for racial, ethnic and religious inequality. Administrative charges were brought against the principals; the head of the department of education received an order to cease the violations.

On†17 December†the Tambov regional prosecutorís office reported on an audit of compliance with anti-extremist legislation conducted by the Sosnovsky district prosecutorís office. The audit established that computers installed in the main hall of the Sosnovka village post office provided access to a website that featured material recognised as extremist by court decisions and aimed at inciting national and religious hatred. The head of the Sosnovsky Post Office received an order to cease the violations and bring disciplinary charges against perpetrators.

Reports on 20 December said that the prosecutorís office in Mariinsky district in Kemerovo region found in the course of inspection that, despite the installed content filters, computers in all city schools allowed users to visit sites containing extremist materials. The prosecutorís office has sent an order to end the violations to the head of the Mariinsky district education office.

On 26 December it was reported that Iznoskovsk district prosecutorís office of Kaluga region had in the course of inspection of the Iznoskovsk secondary school found pornographic and extremist websites to be accessible from a school computer. The prosecutorís office filed a lawsuit against the district administration, demanding that it provide funding for the installation of content filters on school computers. In addition, the ISP Rostelecom and the school principal received orders to cease the violations.

The Tambov regional prosecutorís office announced on†27 December†its audit of the Kirsanovsky rural post office in the village of Umet. The audit revealed that the two post office computers provided access to the websites featuring material recognised as extremist. The prosecutorís office sent an order to the head of the Kirsanovsky post office to cease the violations and to consider disciplinary charges against perpetrators.

Suicide

On 28 December it was reported that the Leninsky district prosecutor in Tambov region had filed a court claim against the Tambov branch of Rostelecom, demanding that it restrict access to websites containing information on various ways to commit suicide. The court granted the prosecutorís request and ordered the internet service provider to limit access to these sites by installing DNS-level filtering of domain names.

Drugs

On 7 December the Khanty-Mansiysk Autonomous District prosecutorís office reported that students in a school in the town of Pyt-Yakh were found to have unfettered access to a website that advertised illegal drugs and smoking mixtures. Based on the audit results, the town prosecutorís office issued an order to the ISP Tehnoservisgrupp demanding that public access to the site be blocked.

On 13 December it was reported that the prosecutorís office of Chapaevsk in Samara region, in the course of monitoring the internet for promotion of illegal drugs, identified several sites that advertised sales of psychotropic substances. The prosecutorís office filed nine claims with the Leninsky district court of Samara against ISPs on 3 December, demanding that they restrict access to these sites. The claims have been accepted by the court for review.

It became known on 13 December that the court had upheld a claim by the Leninsky district prosecutorís office of Magnitogorsk, requiring three ISPs to restrict access to an online store selling poisonous and psychotropic substances. The store website had been identified by the prosecutorís office in the course of the internet monitoring.

On 19 December it was reported that the prosecutorís office of Armavir had identified 21 websites containing information on the ways to manufacture and use drugs, as well as their points of sale. The city prosecutorís office filed a lawsuit against the ISPs demanding that access to these sites be restricted.

And the rest …

Beauty salons

On 13 December it was reported that the Federal Drug Control Service had added the portal for the Meder Beauty cosmetics brand www.mederbeauty.com to the register of banned sites. The ISP Beeline blocked the site. A large number of websites were using the same IP-address, and the FDCS only had issues with one of these sites. As of 15 December the portal, once again, was accessible to public.

Forged education

On 4 December it became known that the Stavropol regional prosecutorís office had in the course of an audit found more than 30 publicly accessible websites offering educational certificates for sale. The prosecutorís office filed court claims against the ISPs Rostelecom and Equant, demanding that access to these sites be blocked. The court granted the request of the prosecutorís office in full.

Wikipedia

It became known on 6 December that the Soviet district court in Orel had dismissed the prosecutorís office claim against the ISP Resurs Svyaz, requesting to block access to Wikipedia.

The prosecutorís office had demanded that access to the Wikipedia ďRussian obscenitiesĒ page be restricted for students of School No 22. The prosecutorís office also insisted on blocking the website for Versailles Entertainment Center, which, according to the prosecutors, was advocating the use of ďlaughing gasĒ. In the course of the trial it became clear that the plaintiff had conducted no research on whether the pages in question truly contained any prohibited content, and whether the Wikipedia page in fact contained obscenities. The ISP said that if it was forced to block this page, its clients would probably lose access to the whole of Wikipedia.

In addition, it was found that students of Orel had not been aware of these pages prior to the prosecutorís investigation, and had never viewed them, visiting only the websites recommended by the Ministry of Education. Visits to the ďRussian obscenitiesĒ Wikipedia page grew 20-fold as a result of the prosecutorís office investigation.

The court decided to reject the request of the prosecutorís office. The prosecutor has 30 days to appeal the decision.

Bribery

On 4 December it was announced that on 30 November Yoshkar-Ola city court had upheld the claim of the prosecutorís office of the Republic to block access to the website that contained information ďinciting corrupt behaviorĒ. The website posted an article on ďHow to give a bribeĒ along with comments, where readers shared their respective experiences.

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