Russian Supreme Court: ISPs Need To Proactively Block 'Illegal Content'

from the that's-not-going-to-go-over-well dept

We’ve been covering Russia’s moves towards increasing censorship of the internet over the past few months, including passing a dangerous new law that appears to be focused on being able to directly censor sites that the government doesn’t like.

Now the Russian Supreme Court may have just made it even easier for Russia to stifle speech online. A new ruling has said that ISPs need to proactively block access to “illegal content” or they could “lose their license” to operate. Specifically, the court found that there is no difference between allowing access to illegal information and disseminating it yourself. The law firm Baker & McKenzie summarized the findings which had to do with whether or not it was illegal for an ISP to allow access to an online gambling site, despite gambling being illegal:

The Supreme Court ruled that is it unlawful to disseminate information that is restricted in accordance with Russian law, including, but not limited to, on gambling. The court further concluded that provision of access to restricted information is equal to dissemination of this information. The court thus found that a telecoms company de-facto disseminates restricted information by providing access to websites containing this information.

The court concluded that Rostelecom must take measures to technically block its clients’ access to restricted information. Following the Supreme Court’s rationale this requirement applies irrespective of the location of the servers containing such websites.

That’s a startling and dangerous finding. Basic common sense would suggest that there’s a world of difference between merely being the conduit to information and actually putting forth that information yourself. In the US, this is why we have various safe harbors, to avoid ridiculous situations where the platform/service provider is blamed for the actions of users. But, apparently, the Russian Supreme Court has no concept of secondary liability and has squashed it all down into primary liability. If you’re a Russian service provider, you should be afraid. Very afraid.

A ruling like this could quite easily stifle Russia’s internet industry, as it will make it prohibitive for most companies to operate, given the potential liability — especially given the new rules about what might be considered illegal online.

As for why it will likely increase censorship, beyond the obvious, you need look no further than China, where the famed “Great Firewall” tends not to be based on a blacklist of “illegal” sites, but by a similar belief that an ISP is liable for any “bad” content that users are able to access. As such, the default is to overblock. Basically block anything that the government might deem to be illegal, just to avoid legal liability. Given Russia’s recent crackdowns, it seems quite likely that ISPs will take a similar “block first, deal with any questions later” approach, rather than risk liability.

Filed Under: , , , ,

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “Russian Supreme Court: ISPs Need To Proactively Block 'Illegal Content'”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re:

A school whose parking lot is used for drug deals in the middle of the night is held liable?

Actually, this can happen. Generally speaking, courts avoid holding property owners liable for crimes committed on their property (unless they are the ones committing them), but there can be circumstances where liability is applied. Here’s a decent overview:

However, the analogy isn’t a good one, as an ISP is not providing a place for action at all. It’s providing a communications service. A better analogy would be: is it right to hold the phone company liable for crimes committed using the telephone?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Six Months

It makes you yearn for the day we it was always a non-starter to propose that we do things like Russia does….

Yeah. Remember that during the SOPA/PIPA debates, copyright maximalists actually brought up the ways that China, Syria, and Iran censor the internet as arguments in support of passing SOPA/PIPA. That should have been the nail in SOPA/PIPA’s burning coffin as it was laughed out of Capitol Hill.

But if not for half the web going dark in protest SOPA/PIPA probably would have passed.

We are definitely living in–or about to live in–interesting times, in the Chinese sense.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Wanted to rob a bank today, but it was full of guards censoring me from doing so. Friggin fascists…

I wanted to go to this neat little music shop downtown that sells only indie stuff, but there were guards outside the door keeping everyone out because the local chapter of the RIAA had declared the shop “illegal”. Fascists indeed.

Anonymous Coward says:

and how long before it gets to that stage in the Western world? it has already started in democratic countries, how long before it gets to this extreme? and when you think what started it all, it can be firmly placed at the door of the entertainment industries, with the express backing of successive thick politicians who were/are interested in nothing other than lining their own pockets! letting them get away with what they have over the past 50 years or more is now coming back to bite everyone except them! in less than 10 more years, no one will have any freedoms and not be allowed to do anything other than what big industries say they can!

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...
Older Stuff
09:00 Awesome Stuff: Monitor Everything (5)
09:00 Awesome Stuff: Cool Components (1)
12:42 Tech Companies Ask European Commission Not To Wreck The Internet -- And You Can Too (4)
09:00 Awesome Stuff: Play & Listen (1)
09:00 Awesome Stuff: Beyond Chiptunes (12)
09:00 Awesome Stuff: Updated Classics (3)
09:00 Awesome Stuff: Celebrating Cities (1)
09:00 Awesome Stuff: Crafts Of All Kinds (5)
09:00 Awesome Stuff: One Great Knob (13)
09:00 Awesome Stuff: Simple Geeky Toys (2)
09:00 Awesome Stuff: Gadgets For The New Year (18)
09:00 Awesome Stuff: A Post-Holiday Grab Bag (0)
13:34 How Private-Sector Innovation Can Help Those Most In Need (21)
09:00 Awesome Stuff: Towards The Future Of Drones (17)
09:00 Awesome Stuff: Artisanal Handheld Games (5)
09:00 Awesome Stuff: A New Approach To Smartphone VR (5)
09:00 Awesome Stuff: Let's Bore The Censors (37)
09:00 Awesome Stuff: Open Source For Your Brain (2)
09:00 Awesome Stuff: The Final Piece Of The VR Puzzle? (6)
09:00 Awesome Stuff: The Internet... Who Needs It? (15)
09:00 Awesome Stuff: The Light Non-Switch (18)
09:00 Awesome Stuff: 3D Printing And Way, Way More (7)
13:00 Techdirt Reading List: Learning By Doing (5)
12:43 The Stagnation Of eBooks Due To Closed Platforms And DRM (89)
09:00 Awesome Stuff: A Modular Phone For Makers (5)
09:00 Awesome Stuff: Everything On One Display (4)
09:00 Awesome Stuff: Everything Is Still A Remix (13)
09:00 Awesome Stuff: Great Desk Toy, Or Greatest Desk Toy? (6)
09:00 Awesome Stuff: Sleep Hacking (12)
09:00 Awesome Stuff: A Voice-Operated Household Assistant (19)
More arrow