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.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 27th, 2012 @ 7:30am

    I find it amazing how much would fall apart if this logic was applied to other areas. A school whose parking lot is used for drug deals in the middle of the night is held liable? It's their parking lot, they should be watching it!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
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    :Lobo Santo (profile), Nov 27th, 2012 @ 7:34am

    Re: Derp

    Yep, I think the Russian court suffers from the mental false dichotomy where things on the internet aren't real and thus require no real work/effort to accomplish.

    It's a common enough condition in older people.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 27th, 2012 @ 7:36am

    White List

    Looking at this ruling, it may lead to a white list for controlling Internet access, as allowing access to a site not on a black list would not be a defense if it contained 'illegal' material.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 27th, 2012 @ 7:45am

    And this is just at the beginning of Putin's next 8 (16?) year old dictatorship. Russia is going to completely roll back all the democracy improvements it gained before Putin first took office.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 27th, 2012 @ 7:46am

    Yeah, I definitely want these guys to have more control over the internet.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6.  
    icon
    JWW (profile), Nov 27th, 2012 @ 7:49am

    Six Months

    Well as was proven before, it'll be just six months before the RIAA and MPAA will suggest we need a law just like Russia to protect copyright.

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

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7.  
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    Richard (profile), Nov 27th, 2012 @ 7:50am

    You misunderstand

    The reason for this is actually to stimulate the development in Russia of sophisticated anti-blocking technology - so that Russia is ready for the US market in a few years time!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8.  
    icon
    timlash (profile), Nov 27th, 2012 @ 7:57am

    Next Up?

    Will Russia be the first country to make VPNs illegal? It seems like the next logical step for a regime with this mindset.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9.  
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    Jeff (profile), Nov 27th, 2012 @ 7:57am

    How could ISP's stay in business with this burden and risk of punishment over something that might be illegal tomorrow or next week. Sounds like the government will be the only ISP in the game.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10.  
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    Chris-Mouse (profile), Nov 27th, 2012 @ 7:58am

    I wonder what would happen if the ISP started forwarding every single page to the court for a determination of whether or not that page is illegal.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 27th, 2012 @ 8:09am

    Re:

    By bribing corrupt officials and judges, which all big businesses in Russia do already.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 27th, 2012 @ 8:18am

    Re: Re: Derp

    Don't know about the common enough condition in older people part, but isn't it a case of kill the messenger mentality?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13.  
    identicon
    Thomas MacCallum, Nov 27th, 2012 @ 8:21am

    Re:

    With the same thinking, my front door would be illegal as it provides access to a whole world of crime.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 27th, 2012 @ 8:21am

    Re:

    What are we waiting for every American law and statute to follow the legal precedence set down by Russian Law? That is the bullshit part of this..

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15.  
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    :Lobo Santo (profile), Nov 27th, 2012 @ 8:21am

    Re: Re: Re: Derp

    Sure, but that's been around forever!

    Seriously, how old do that think the expression "don't kill the messenger" is? Why does that expression exist...?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 27th, 2012 @ 8:25am

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

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 27th, 2012 @ 8:27am

    Re: Re:

    Like its a power play by these businesses to decrease competition of those who can't afford to grease the outstretched hands? Is that new?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18.  
    identicon
    Bengie, Nov 27th, 2012 @ 8:28am

    Re:

    Shouldn't the electric company be held liable for the ISP using their electricity to transmit the "illegal" data, or the water company for providing water to keep the ISP workers quenched?

    Your parking lot example worked also :P

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 27th, 2012 @ 8:28am

    Re:

    You mean they threatened to bankrupt the guards if they failed to prevent you from looking at the money in the vault, right?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 27th, 2012 @ 8:31am

    Re:

    LOL lol!!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 27th, 2012 @ 8:34am

    Re: Re:

    Did they erect a dark firewall to prevent the transfer of that vaulted cash into your account? Those bastards..

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 27th, 2012 @ 8:40am

    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.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 27th, 2012 @ 8:45am

    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.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 27th, 2012 @ 8:51am

    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!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25.  
    icon
    John Fenderson (profile), Nov 27th, 2012 @ 8:52am

    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: http://www.butlerpappas.com/1411

    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?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26.  
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    John Fenderson (profile), Nov 27th, 2012 @ 8:58am

    Re:

    Fail on multiple levels, but here's one other commenters haven't brought up: that's not censorship.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27.  
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    Zakida Paul (profile), Nov 27th, 2012 @ 8:59am

    Re:

    Someone died in a hit and run accident recently, perhaps all roads should be closed.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  28.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 27th, 2012 @ 10:22am

    Re: Re:

    Nor is removing illegal content from the internet.

    You win the prize today.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  29.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 27th, 2012 @ 10:28am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Derp

    IIRC, it goes back to the time of Ancient Egypt, where if a messenger brought bad news, the pharaoh was well within his rights to kill the messenger for bringing the bad news.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  30.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 27th, 2012 @ 10:42am

    Re: Re: Re:

    Uh... that's literally what censorship is: the suppression of speech or public communications some may find harmful as determined by a government or some other such entity.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  31.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 27th, 2012 @ 10:52am

    Re:

    Yeah, providing someone with an unfettered internet connection is just like robbing a bank...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  32.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 27th, 2012 @ 2:20pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    So if critsizing the goverment isillegal, then it's not censorship if they take down my video with proof of abuses of power?

    Real nice logic there pal

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  33.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 27th, 2012 @ 2:25pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Then stopping me from robbing a bank is censorship. I'm making a political statement.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  34.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 27th, 2012 @ 6:31pm

    On the other hand

    A bunch of most damaging hackers are Russian. If their "should proactively block illegal content" also includes virus, worms and trojans, it could make the network environment safer.

    (Okay, I understand this court statement has no intention to include things like that)

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  35.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 27th, 2012 @ 7:15pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    By definition, preventing (or attempting to prevent) access to information is censorship. That's not a question of whether it is good or bad (and some censorship is a necessary evil, for example identities of intelligence agents, upcoming military plans).

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  36.  
    icon
    Bergman (profile), Nov 28th, 2012 @ 9:56am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Derp

    A leader must have complete information in order to lead effectively. Since you can only act on what you know, if nobody ever tells you any bad news, you'll quickly reach a point where your actions have no connection to reality.

    There's a reason why there aren't any Pharaohs anymore.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  37.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 28th, 2012 @ 3:36pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    And you're failing horribly at it. Larceny =/= political statement.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  38.  
    identicon
    mark, Jan 3rd, 2013 @ 8:56am

    For news about the privacy and the new european law i can suggest Consulenz aPrivacy Firenze

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  39.  
    identicon
    kntaki, Jun 2nd, 2013 @ 11:17am

    russian

    Nor is removing illegal content from the internet.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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