20% of websites blocked in Russia are online gambling sites

Publication date: 13 Dec 2021

The blocking of various websites and proxy services has become commonplace for Russians. Roskomnadzor continues its series of bans…

Tor is under threat: come out of the shadows for everyone!

Roskomnadzor has threatened to block Tor in Russia unless the owners of the browser remove “banned information” from its site. The developers of an anonymizer browser with the same name have been notified accordingly. It is not specified what information was deemed to be forbidden.

If the hosting providers or site owners don’t take steps to remove the banned information, access will be restricted. The Tor address will be added to the banned site registry.

  • Tor allows to save complete anonymity online and access to the darknet through a system of “proxy servers” for anonymous network connectivity and elimination of surveillance. Multiple layers of IP address masking are applied for security. All cookies and history are automatically deleted after browsing the sites and traffic is triple encrypted. Tor has already been placed on one of Roskomnadzor’s registries by the Saratov District Court in 2017, but continues to operate in Russia.

The blocking of Tor was another in a string of restrictions that have been applied to VPN services in Russia. Lantern, Betternet, Tachyon VPN, X-VPN, CloudFlare WARP, PrivateTunnel will be “victims” of the VPN purge in December 2021. According to experts, these proxies are used to circumvent restrictions on legally banned and blocked information. Roskomnadzor has required Russian agencies to send information on the use of these resources to the Monitoring and Control Centre for Public Communications Network.

Number of websites blocked in Russia is growing: data and statistics

In 2021, the number of websites blocked due to banned content increased in Russia.  According to RTM Group’s research, from January to November, Roskomnadzor added 174,900 websites to the Unified Registry of Prohibited Sites. By comparison, the agency added 150,000 resources to the list in 2020 and 103,000 in 2019.

At the same time, Roskomnadzor said that during the first 11 months of 2021, “more than 320,000 links to resources with illegal content” were added to the Unified Registry of Prohibited Sites. This is 12% more than what was blocked in 2019 and 2% more than for the whole of 2020. The agency also specified that a fifth of all the resources included in the register are websites with online gambling.

The blocking of such resources has led to a reduction in the market share of illegal bookmakers. But according to experts, these measures are not effective enough, as most online casinos, and grey betting sites continue to work by finding a way around the blocking.

According to RTM Group, not only the number of court cases, but also the number of pre-trial requests to block a resource with inappropriate information is growing. In 2021, there were more than 1,136 court orders to declare information banned, compared to 1,169 in 2020 and 579 in 2019.

In 2020, the total number of appeals to Roskomnadzor from users and government agencies amounted to 895,800, in 2019 – 557,200.

How websites are blocked in Russia: new rules and laws

Vadim Subbotin, deputy head of Roskomnadzor, described how the agency plans to work with foreign Internet companies in light of the entry into force of the law “On Landing”, which should significantly limit the opportunities of large foreign businesses.

The official noted that blocking a particular resource is an extreme measure, which is applied if other arguments do not work. He also said that Roskomnadzor held consultations with major foreign companies, which were included in the list of entities subject to the law. Representatives of the agency outlined to the companies the essence of the law, which requires opening an official representative office in Russia, as well as moderation of produced, published content.

Also, the Ministry of Digital Development provided the formed order of interaction with advertising operators, so that Roskomnadzor could adequately cooperate with them.

Starting from September 1, 2022 advertisers will be obliged to provide the agency with data on the placed advertisements, including advertisers and distributors. Roskomnadzor, in turn, will store and analyze the data in accordance with the established procedure. The technology base will be provided by Roskomnadzor’s subsidiary General Radio Frequency Centre.

According to the Ministry of Digital Development, Communications and Mass Media of the Russian Federation (Mintsifry), all these measures are necessary to ensure a competitive level playing field for all market players.

Mintsifry will prepare a list of legal entities that will be obliged to provide information on advertisements produced to Roskomnadzor. The list includes:

  • all distributors of advertising on the Internet whose materials are aimed at attracting the attention of Russian citizens; 
  • companies that own social networks, audio-visual portals, news aggregators and search engines; 
  • advertisers whose data on obtaining the status of a legal entity or individual entrepreneur were entered into the unified register after 31 August 2022.

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