Gowling WLG (International) Inc - Russia
Headlines such as “[Website] Blocked in Russia” have become increasingly common in recent years with the restriction of thousands of torrent and pirated websites, online casinos and even social media platforms.
These headlines suggest that website restriction is a form of suppression on the Internet and another brick in the ‘Great Russian Firewall’. The main question among many online companies operating in Russia is why certain websites are being blocked.
The legislative basis for restricting access to websites is the Law on Information, Information Technologies and Protection of Information (Federal Law 149 FZ) and the Law on Personal Data (Federal Law 152 FZ). These laws provide a non-exhaustive list of legal grounds for restricting access to information on the Internet.
Roskomnadzor is the state executive body for supervising all media in Russia, including what can appear on the Internet. It is responsible for managing the entire website-blocking process: from maintaining registers to communicating with websites, web hosting companies, courts and other state bodies.
Roskomnadzor maintains the following registers:
- Register of copyright infringers
- Register of extremist materials
- Uniform register of prohibited information
- Register of infringers of personal data
- Register of information dissemination organisers and bloggers
- Register of personal data operators
Inclusion on a register does not necessarily mean that a website will be automatically blocked. The register of information dissemination organisers and register of personal data operators are for recording purposes. Failure to register with the named registers entails the risk of being shut down, which is exactly what happened to the messenger app WeChat (for further details please see “WeChat is back online”). Other registers aim to record information on websites with illegal content ‒ access to these sites is restricted until the illegal content is removed.
When a web page, website or IP address is added to one of the named registers, Roskomnadzor emails a notice ‒ in Russian and English ‒ to the hosting provider or other individuals which enable posting or maintain the website’s information with the following subject line: “Roskomnadzor is informing.”
Technically, Roskomnadzor carries out the block within a special procedure called ‘interaction system’, according to which it receives decisions from courts and other state bodies requesting that the web page, website or IP address with illegal content should be blocked.
Within one working day, Roskomnadzor adds the infringing site to a register and sends a notice to the hosting provider or other individuals which enable posting or maintain the website’s information.
If the infringing materials are removed from the website within three working days from the receipt of the notice, Roskomnadzor removes the website from the register. However, if the illegal content is not removed, Roskomnadzor sends a request to the telecom operators to restrict access to the website.
As an executive body, Roskomnadzor shares the burden of internet monitoring and content filtering with other state bodies, including the Federal Tax Service, the Federal Service for Surveillance on Consumer Rights Protection and Human Wellbeing, prosecutors and police.
Below is the list of judicial and non-judicial grounds for website blocking and the separation of powers between state bodies.
Federal Tax Service
Ministry of Internal Affairs
Federal Service for Surveillance on Consumer Rights Protection and Human Wellbeing
Moscow City Court
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