Runet's Turning Point: Russian Blacklists

On 1 November 2012 the lower house of the Russian parliament, the Duma, approvedFederal law no. 139-FZ of 2012-07-28 (“Law on the Protection of Children from Information Detrimental to tvheir Health and Development”). The  Law was maintained by the Russian Federal Surveillance Service for Mass Media and Communications (Roskomnadzor), Its operation is described in a government decree issued on 26 October 2012.


According to this Law, websites “containing pornography or extremist ideas, or promoting suicide or use of drugs” could be placed directly on the blacklist without referring to a court. In other cases, a court’s approval would have to be obtained first.


Once a website appeared on the list, the site’s hosting-provider would have 24 hours to notify the site-owner, who must then delete the offending data. If the owner fails to act, the hosting-provider is required to shut down or delete the site itself. In the event that the hosting-provider fails or refuses to act, it joins the registry and then web-providers must cut off access to that entire hosting-provider.  Anyone included on the blacklist then has three months to appeal the decision in court. The bill imposes a “collective punishment” on Internet users since it could render law-abiding websites and legitimate websites inaccessible.


As a protest to the law, Wikipedia’s Russian-language site ( showed on its home page a bar across the Wikipedia logo with the words: “Imagine a world without free knowledge.”  This protest against a bill that could lead to “extra-judicial Internet censorship” was taken up by the Yandex search engine, which placed a bar across the word “Everything” in its slogan “Everything will be found.”


A coalition of independent Russian journalists has launched an online petition for the withdrawal of this bill. The online petition of users against the bill collected over thousand names; however, the  government considered it to be “inadequate” and the petition was not taken into consideration.


Russia's Internet blacklist is now a database of URLsdomain names, and IP addresses of websites and webpages containing child pornography, advocacy of drug abuse and drug production instructions, suicide advocacy, or any information which have been prohibited for distribution in Russia by court decision.


Visitors to the blacklist website can check whether a given URL or IP address is in the blacklist, and may submit new entries. After a new entry has been reviewed and verified to contain prohibited materials, Roskomnadzor will inform the website owner and hosting provider. If the material is not removed within three days, the website will be added to the blacklist, and all Russian ISPs must block it. The full content of the blacklist is available to ISPs, but not to the general public.

·         The Russian Uncyclopedia was blocked on 8 November 2012 for a satirical article titled "How to correctly: Commit suicide”; the article was subsequently removed.  This block also affected all other content hosted at the same IP address, including all the wikis on Wikia.  Wikia's IP address remains blocked as of November 16, 2012.

·         The IP address of (Lurkomorye) was blocked on November 11, 2012 by decision of the Federal Drug Control Service of Russia;  The case of Lurkmore drew immediate attention on RUnet. was removed from the blacklist on November 13, after the website administrators deleted two marijuana-related articles.

·         The IP address of the Librusec online library was blacklisted on November 11, 2012. 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. The IP address was unblocked on November 13 after The Anarchist Cookbook was removed by Librusec administrators.

·         On November 12, 2012, the leaked list of blacklisted websites was published by a LiveJournal user.

·         In September 2012, YouTube was entirely blocked for several hours in some regions by providers who had been ordered to block the anti-Islam film, “The Innocence of Muslims.” Communications Minister Nikolai Nikiforov had warned that YouTube could be entirely shut down throughout the country if the site did not take down the film.

·         On April 8, it was confirmed by Roskomnadzor that several Russian and English Wikipedia articles had been blacklisted.

·         In July 2012, the Russian social networking site Vkontakte posted messages on users' homepages warning that the law posed a risk to its future.

Lenta.Ru editorial noted that the criteria for prohibited content are so broad that even the website of the United Russia party could in theory be blacklisted.  However, the idea of an Internet blacklist is generally supported by the Russian public: in a September 2012 Levada Center survey, 63% of respondents had expressed support for "Internet censorship", even though any kind of censorship is banned under the Constitution of Russia.


Besides NGOs and human rights campaigners, websites including the Russian search engine giant Yandex, social media portal and the Russian-language version of Wikipedia have all protested against the law.

Meanwhile, Russia’s telecom minister Nikolai Nikiforov  (according to a report by Tass)  says "The Internet has always been a free territory. The government is not  planning on enforcing censorship there.  For example, LiveJournal, YouTube and Facebook are models for socially responsible. .companies. That means that they will be blocked only if they refuse to follow Russian laws, which is unlikely”. 

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