Russia threatens to block web sites for publishing materials of ‘undesirable organizations’

Roskomnadzor (Russia's Federal Service for Supervision of Communications, Information Technology and Mass Media) warned the Internet media that their websites could be blocked for posting materials from undesirable organizations.

"We draw attention to the fact that if the materials of an undesirable organization are distributed on a third-party resource, including on the media website, Roskomnadzor should limit access to these resources. This happens if these third-party resources are specified in the request received from the Prosecutor General's Office," the Roskomnadzor statement said.

Timur Hutov, a partner from the BMS Law Firm told RBC news agency that quoting an undesirable organization could lead the Russian Federal Service to block "if not the whole website citing the material of the undesirable organization, then at least a separate page."

"I believe that the blocking of the entire resource can be deemed illegal by a court decision, since this will be an abuse of power by Roskomnadzor. But the blocking of a separate page with the publication of an undesirable organization will be legitimate under these conditions," he explained.

In April 2017, the Prosecutor General's Office recognized as undesirable on the territory of Russia three foreign, non-governmental organizations: Mikhail Khodorkovsky’s "Open Russia," the Institute of Contemporary Russia (USA) that belongs to his son Pavel Khodorkovsky, and the public Internet movement "Open Russia" (UK).

The Prosecutor General's Office explained their decision by saying that the activities of these organizations "are aimed at inspiring protests and destabilizing the internal political situation, which threatens the foundations of the constitutional system of the Russian Federation and the security of the state."

On December 12, the Prosecutor General's Office demanded that Roskomnadzor limit access to 21 sites on which materials from organizations whose activities are deemed undesirable are posted. On the same day, the Open Russia group was blocked by the social network Odnoklassniki.

The next day, Open Russia reported that Roskomnadzor demanded that Twitter block their account. If Twitter failed to comply, the entire social network could be blocked.

"Fulfilling the demands received from the Prosecutor General's Office, Roskomnadzor started the procedure for blocking 21 Internet resources with materials of organizations recognized as undesirable in Russia. At the same time, other information resources of these organizations were found on social networks. In accordance with the law, they received requests for the removal of illegal content," a representative of the agency told RBC. "Some of the social networks fulfilled the requirement. Others didn’t. Roskomnadzor plans to continue the dialogue with social networks on this issue."

The spokeswoman for the Open Russia movement, Maria Galitskaya explained to RBC news agency that neither the movement itself nor the editorial board of its website were recognized as undesirable organizations. "To be undesirable, you need to be a foreign organization. Neither the site nor the movement has registration," she said.

The Roskomnadzor report published on December 13 says that, according to the law, at the request of the Prosecutor General's Office, the agency is obliged to restrict access to Internet resources that distribute information materials of foreign or international organizations whose activities in Russia are considered undesirable.

"The provisions of Federal Law No. 149-FZ ‘On Information...’ apply to all Internet resources, regardless of whether the site is a registered media outlet or not," the report says.

  Russia, Open Russia