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June 17, 2014
Net Lawyer from Russia: “Censorship Actually has Returned to the Country”
By Suren Deheryan
JNews editor-in-chief
Net Lawyer from Russia: “Censorship Actually has Returned to the Country” had an exclusive interview with lawyer Sarkis Darbinyan, an Armenian internet activist living in Moscow, member of Trunov, Ayvar and Partners Bar Council, and an active public figure at the same time. He is also a member of Pirate Party of Russia and the head of the site and domain owners’ rights protection section in Internet Users Association (IUA). Darbinyan is also one of the lawyers of “RosKomSvoboda” movement and author of the “Time to Change Copyright” initiative.

In the interview Darbinyan refers to the Internet users rights and the activation of restrictions recently implemented in the Internet in a number of countries among them Russia.

According to him, today some MPs and state officials often make suggestions about the necessity to adopt a number of laws which will define compulsory control of social networks’ users and will obligate those who disseminate information to save the data about users’ activeness for a long time.

“However, such suggestions are expressed by those who, generally, have very weak understanding of what the Internet is and how it relates to the basic human and civil rights defined by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” Darbinyan mentions.    

The point is that in the digital century the right of anonymity and coding of personal data is considered to be a mandatory and inalienable human right which provides compliance with such fundamental rights such as the right of a secret correspondence and of private life, and the right to have an avatar enables any person to choose an image and a name in the net regardless of social status, property, and other factors.

“It enables to self-expression and it is a striking example of simple human consciousness, which has nothing to do with the material world. Therefore, all the countries should be interested in protecting these rights rather than trying to undermine them under the pretext of combating illegal information,” the lawyer says.

There are a number of articles in the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation according to which the usage of the Internet is considered to be a sign of crime (monopolization of markets, dissemination of pornography, illegal organization and conduction of gambling games, illegal sale of drugs, etc.), however, despite the distinct feature of networks, the same regulatory standards are to be used both in online and in offline systems. 

“As the experiment shows, the law enforcement bodies can quite successfully track criminals at any time they need through operative-investigative measures,” Darbinyan emphasizes. “One of the examples is Ross Ulbricht’s suit, owner of Silk Road, the largest online seller of drugs and chemicals in the market, as well as Wrublevski’s suit.”

Darbinyan mentions that over two years federal laws N139-FZ (Law on the Internet Blacklist), N187-FZ (Law on Anti Piracy), N398-FZ (Law on Political Censorship) were adopted and 21 legislative initiatives were put on the agenda of the Russian Duma. Besides these laws, there are a number of legislative initiatives in the State Duma envisaged for this or that restriction of the network usage or for  blocking websites.

“It is obvious that states and international corporations have different goals but one common ambition - the control of citizens’ private communication. When the basis of the websites blocking was introduced for the first time (pedophilia, suicides, drugs), of course, there were concerns that introduction of new mechanisms of the legal regulation will enhance this basis leading to inevitable mass violation of the citizens' rights to freely receive and disseminate information. And our worst expectations were justified. Recently, the whole country could follow how the Prosecution General's Office jointly with “Roscomnadzor” blocked the top news websites and personal blogs of opposition politicians without any legal proposition. We should confess that censorship actually has returned to the country although it is still forbidden under the Article 29 of the Russian Constitution,” Darbinyan says.

According to him there is a unified registry of blocked websites in Russia created under a number of federal laws according to which changes were made in Article 15 of the law “On Information, Information Technologies, and Information Protection”, N149-FZ. Thus, nowadays websites including the following content can be blocked in Russia:

  • On methods of committing suicide or on calling to commit it;
  • On juveniles who have been affected by the illegal actions (idleness);
  • Pornographic images with minors' participation (including Japanese Hentai);
  • Information on promotion of drugs, propaganda of psychotropic substances and precursors, as well as methods of their production and acquisition;
  • Calls to participate in public mass events which will be conducted by violation of a determined regulation, as well as information prompting to mass disorders to implement extremist or terrorist activities to disseminate religious or national hatred.

“Though even the existence of a special law and regulations to block network resources does not protect your website from being blocked, as the law enforcement bodies combat against the illegal information without application of a legal algorithm of collaboration between the control bodies, hosters, website owners and internet providers,” Darbinyan mentions.

According to the results of a monitoring conducted by them, more than 2000 websites containing illegal information have been blocked since 2012 and as it has been implemented through IP addresses, about 57 000 conscientious websites of the same IP addresses also have become unavailable. Overall 140 000 different websites were blocked. It really undermines the network interconnection.

“All the new laws of RuNet are like viruses but, fortunately, the net as a live organism can resist the viruses and struggle against them, therefore it cannot be eliminated. It is accepted to say, while the law makers are writing laws, the programmers are creating codes. Technologies are always ahead of the rights. I hope those who make decisions today, will be convinced of it in the nearest future,” Darbinyan says.

Full text of Sarkis Darbinyan's interview in Russian you can read here

Darbinyan’s official website:  

This article was prepared within the framework of the “Internet and Rights” newsletter published by “Journalists for the Future” NGO with the financial support of the OSCE Office in Yerevan. Content, views and opinions expressed in this article belong to the author and it is possible that they do not match with the views of the OSCE Office in Yerevan. Find all of the materials of the newsletter “Internet and Rights” here.


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