Instagram, YouTube Face Full Block In Russia After Billionaire Wins A Privacy Lawsuit Over Pictures With An Alleged Escort

from the real-subtle-guys dept

We’ve had ongoing discussions on this site about the ham-fisted website censorship policy that Russia has undertaken over the past few years. While the country was never one to embrace free and open speech and communication to the same degree as Western nations, recent times have seen a severe uptick in outright censorship with a variety of excuses rolled out for public consumption: copyright laws, stifling political opposition, and the protection of the privacy of public figures. The funnel point for all of this censorship is Russian agency Rozcomnadzor, itself the subject of corruption allegations, with a track record for racking up collateral damage numbers that would make any nation’s army blush.

Through it all, there have been suggestions that entire sites with massive global followings would be blocked. YouTube and Twitter were previously found to be in the crosshairs of the Russian government, but nothing immediately came of the threat. Now, however, both YouTube and Instagram may face a very real choice: bow to the censorship demands of Rozcomnadzor or face full site-blocks in Russia. And, perhaps most strangely, this has all come to a head over a Russian billionaire’s win in court to block the publication of photos and videos showing him on a yacht with what is reportedly an escort.

Russia may block access to YouTube and Instagram after billionaire Oleg Deripaska won a court injunction against videos and photographs that showed him and Deputy Prime Minister Sergey Prikhodko relaxing on a yacht with a woman described as an escort.

Deripaska won an order from the Ust-Labinsk district court in his native Krasnodar region ordering the removal of 14 Instagram posts and seven YouTube videos that breached his right to privacy, according to a spokeswoman for his Basic Element company. Anti-Kremlin campaigner Alexey Navalny said the order also threatens to block his website after he published an online film alleging that the videos and photographs posted by Anastasiya Vashukevich, who goes by the name Nastya Rybka, showed evidence of a corrupt relationship between the aluminum tycoon and the senior minister.

Following the court order, Roskomnadzor dutifully added the photo and video material to its list of things that must be censored and contacted YouTube and Instagram to order it to take the material off of its site or face being blocked throughout the country. For his part, Deripaska insists he just wants the specific photos and videos removed, not access to these entire sites. But from the point of view of the Russian censors, they don’t have the ability to block access to just that material, or to the accounts posting them. Instead, this will come down to YouTube and Instagram either participating in the censorship or being blocked outright.

“It’s impossible for internet providers to block certain pages on Instagram and YouTube,” and they’ll have to block the services unless the material singled out by the watchdog is deleted, said Karen Kazaryan, chief analyst at the Russian Association for Electronic Communications, an internet lobby group. There’s also a “high chance that Navalny may need to remove this information to avoid being blocked.”

According to Navalny, Google has already informed him that he needs to remove the material in question or his account will be banned. The video is still up as of the time of this writing, but if Google indeed tried to bow to the censors in Russia, that needs to be called out. The context here is that Navalny is a member of the political opposition to the Russian government and his posts on this topic have as much to do with accusations of an improper relationship between the billionaire and the Deputy Prime Minister as it does of sordid relationships with escorts. In fact, it’s quite likely that the former accusations are the real target here, while the photographs are simply the lightning rod drawing attention to them. If Google is actively seeking to participate in the censorship of political speech in that manner, that’s not a good look.

Navalny, for his part, is seeking to use this attempted censorship to his political advantage via the Streisand Effect.

The action against his investigation is “a brazen act of censorship,” Navalny wrote on his website, which also remained accessible on Tuesday. “I urge everyone to spread this video wherever you can.”

And that’s already occurred, with millions of views of these videos and pictures already logged and the numbers continuing to climb. Whatever the outcome of the decision to censor YouTube and Instagram entirely or not, it should be clear that American companies ought not help corrupt foreign governments silence their political opponents.

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Comments on “Instagram, YouTube Face Full Block In Russia After Billionaire Wins A Privacy Lawsuit Over Pictures With An Alleged Escort”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Oh, but they will

Like they did in China with the GFoC, or when they supplied the technology to uncover the dissenters (Egypt comes to mind).

It is actually **easier** to do business in authoritarian regimes – this example shows it clearly: you can obtain an injunction and censor inconvenient information because all the state’s machinery is at your disposal.

The conundrum is: you need a strong state (so it is hard to bribe), but also a controlled one (so it will not grow into a villain). And not less of it – rather more, to protect the small guy against the obvious might of money. Otherwise you end up in an utopia of freedom, where you have a lot of rights, however rarely means to exercise them – like when you are litigated into bankruptcy because your pockets are smaller.

PaulT (profile) says:

So, political corruption, destruction of freedom of speech, actual censorship abusing the tools supposedly only needed to fight piracy, wildly inappropriate unintended(?) consequences and presumably an upcoming whack a mole game as the censors try blocking every new copy with the proverbial sledgehammer.

I’m sure the usual cheerleaders will be here to tell us why this is a good thing soon (or at least post a load of rambling bollocks attacking Google and/or TD for no real reason). I await the free entertainment as they try to twist the facts.

Richard (profile) says:


While the country was never one to embrace free and open speech and communication to the same degree as Western nations

Free speech in western nations is itself a fairly recent concept and the practical ability to take advantage of it is even newer. How much use was the first amendment if you were a slave in the American south?

Go back before the revolution and look at a broader span of history and you will find that there is actually little to choose between Russia and the West on this type of issue.

Now remember that communism was itself a western import (devised by Germans in the UK) and you will realise that Russia as such is no worse nor better than anywhere else and the type of knee jerk slur in the quote above is unnecessary and detracts from the objectivity of the story.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: History

They can’t comment on the ways countries currently operate because if you go back far enough in history there wasn’t so much difference? Oh, and their political system wasn’t solely developed in their country so that’s irrelevant (handy, since the majority of modern nations don’t have a natively produced political system)? It’s OK, guys, we implemented a system suggested somewhere else and if you go back to the stone age we’re all the same anyway so no criticism is allowed of anyone, ever!

Apart from wondering why you’re so defensive in the first place, your choice of defence is lacking.

Dark Helmet (profile) says:

Re: History

Let me make sure I understand you correctly. Your basic thesis above can be boiled down to: generally speaking, in the age of Western Democracy, Russia and its predecessor, the USSR, were no better or worse on the matter of free speech than Western Democracy?

If that’s REALLY your thesis then we’ve arrived at a whole new level of false equivalencies….

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: History

I genuinely hope that Russia succeeds in taking down Navlanys video.

I will create two more accounts to reupload the video and for every account that is taken down, I will create two more. I’m also going to spend money to use targeted advertising to promote the video in Russia.

I have a lot of money, and a lot of time.
Please, just give me a reason.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: History

“How much use was the first amendment if you were a slave in the American south? “

At the time, slaves were not considered to be people.
Later, when defending their bigotry became untenable they decided to allow people of African decent to be considered 3/5 of a person – real generous they were huh.

So, I am wondering wth your journey back in history has to do with this post other than attempting to rationalize bad behavior.

Anonymous Coward says:

Wow, that was hard...

Second result on Google Image Search for me when looking for ‘”Oleg Deripaska” escort’:

Two websites down, an infinite amount of websites more to go! Good luck, Russia, you’re gonna need it.

Anonymous Coward says:

The "PaulT" troll tries to deflect real news about Google this morning: "Attkisson Fingers Schmidt for Starting Fake News 'Propaganda Campaign'..."

"it should be clear that American companies ought not help corrupt foreign governments silence their political opponents"

Sheesh. Minion’s clumsy attempt to be sly. What a chicken. — It should be clear that corrupt globalist corporations must not be allowed to help corrupt globalist politicican Hillary Clinton silence political opponents.

Just more of Techdirt’s fourth-hand Russia-hating-mania: take a minor incident that will dead-end and claim it’s all-out assault on Techdirt’s favored corporations.

Oh, and this "Navalny" that so often comes up in Techdirt’s hysteria is a CIA asset, a not very effective one. — Again, the Russians just LAUGH at these blatant clumsy attempts that have no real basis.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: The "PaulT" troll tries to deflect real news about Google this morning: "Attkisson Fingers Schmidt for Starting Fake News 'Propaganda Campaign'..."

Wow, I’ve got to hand it to you, you do really have a handy list of laughable right-wing liars available. I’d forgotten about that one, even after I thought you’d posted to every fiction writer paid to completely make things up about important issues. It’s like a laundry list of derp.

A shame that you think addressing reality counts as trolling, but since you’ve not yet managed to post a link to any source known for not outright lying to its readership, I do accept that you’re not sharing the same reality as sane people.

Jehuda says:

Navalnyj is a fifth column of pro-western interests

His actual support among native Russians is about 1.4%. It’s the western media who are the ones yelling and pushing his name over and over, as if his support was a magnitude greater. It isn’t. His demonstrations of a few hundred to a few thousand paid-for rent-a-demonstrator pro-Sörös folk are in pale amount compared to number of Moscow’s metro residents.

Mason Wheeler (profile) says:

According to Navalny, Google has already informed him that he needs to remove the material in question or his account will be banned. The video is still up as of the time of this writing, but if Google indeed tried to bow to the censors in Russia, that needs to be called out.

Wait, I’m confused here. Aren’t you supposed to be some sort of shameless Google shill? That’s what all the trolls say, at least…

Anonymous Coward says:

Stupid is as stupid does

If he wanted to ‘hide’ this because it was ‘private’ he should have said its not him, must be some of that new AI porn face swapping stuff going on!

Instead he admits it him, only way for it to be invading his privacy, and informs the whole world about it by invoking Streisand effect.

Guess not all billionaires get their money by being really smart.

Alisha an Bella an Brandon says:


Come to find out Nikki had her complete vibrator collection ruined by using 3 of them in the shower at once and they were not waterproof. Basically this whore of a tramp is setting up a GoFundMe page to get into strap on’s and set up a live sex cam to twang to the world. She is rumoured to get down with a Shetland pony on Viagra at a petting zoo in Florida. Wow what a freak of of whore ???? ????

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