Staunton, February 16 – Moscow has taken a great deal of credit and been the focus of many complaints for its blocking of Internet sites it finds objectionable, but a new survey by the RBC news service finds that “no fewer than 65 percent” of the sites the Russian government has blocked continue to function much as they did before.
Alena Makhukova, Anna Balashova and Irina Li of that service say that 2016 was a record year in terms of the number of web pages and IP addresses that Moscow says have sought to disseminate information to Russian prohibited by Russian law since 2012 (rbc.ru/technology_and_media/16/02/2017/588619a59a79473089dbad69?from=main).
“Almost 87,000 pages, domain names and IP addresses” are on the Russian government’s black list, Moscow’s media oversight agency Roskomnadzor says, and “almost a third of them” – 34,500 – were on the list as of the end of December because their operators had not removed the offending materials.
At the end of 2016, the RBC journalists continue, there were 51,700 pages, domains and IP addresses on the register, a number that rose by 8500 between then and now, continuing the trend in which the Russian authorities add more places to the list of objectionable ones for more reasons. Since 2012, they have included 137,400 such places, of which “almost 60 percent were subsequently blocked.”
There are no official statistics on how many remain operational, the journalist say; but their investigation suggests that “despite the blocking no fewer than 65 percent of the sites continue to work. The largest share of sites on the list – 48 percent – are based in the US, not surprising since 35 percent of all unique addresses on line are found there.
Experts say that some of the sites continue to function because they appeal primarily to people living beyond the borders of the Russian Federation or are accessed by various means by those within the country. They add that “no more than two percent” of the global Internet consists of Russian sites and that Russia generates “30 percent of the Russian language audience.
Sarkis Darbinyan, a lawyer with the Russian Freedom Committee, points out that Russian law does not anticipate banning most sites forever. That only happens under the terms of Moscow’s anti-piracy legislation. Most sites that are banned have the opportunity to get off the list if they remove the offending materials.