What Else Would Russia Do to Cryptocurrency Community?

News and Analysis

As recently as a week ago Sverdlovsk Oblast court discharged the order to ban several sites on cryptocurrency, thus encouraging local bitcoiners to celebrate this small yet important victory. However, everyone knew that the victory is but a tiny part of a great war against internet censorship.

Currently, among many others, bitnovosti.com and our Roskomsvoboda friends’ site rublacklist.net are banned.

ForkLog talked with spokespersons from Roskomsvoboda and Bitnovosti and with CCFR founder Igor Chepkasov to find out what’s actually going on.

Are Roskomnadzor actions legitimate?

Bitnovosti.com was banned a few hours after its owners received the respective notice which cannot but leave us wondering on legitimacy of the decision made. As Roskomsvoboda points out, legitimacy of such a dash banning depends on a law used as a basis for blocking.

If it’s the law on political censorship (398-FZ), then yes, it allows them to ban a site immediately without prior notice to the owner or the hosting service. However, this decision can only be made by a General Attorney or their deputies. I don’t think that it’s the case. According to all other laws, the hosting service and the owner have to receive a prior notice so that they could consider removing the material should they want to avoid inclusion into the register of banned sites. I suspect in that case the hosting service accommodated government entities and restricted the portal for Russian IP addresses, Roskomsvoboda spokesperson Artem Kozlyuk says.

Some say that bitnovosti.com banning was related to the article on money laundering published there. However, Roskomsvoboda spokespersons say, decision on blocking under provisions not related to the prohibited content as stated in the law On information cannot be performed by state entities without a court order.

This very decision was never published, so it’s hard to say what the banning is based on. Anyway, information on Bitcoin and cryptocurrency is currently not prohibited in Russia, so the decision on blocking has to be and must be appealed. Moreover, there is a recent example of successful appealing against similar blocking of other Bitcoin-related portals, they say.

Playing Cat and Mouse with Roskomnadzor

However, bitnovosti.com owners seem to have chosen another resistance strategy.

We proceed from the premise that all crypto-sites will soon be blocked ‘as a matter of law’, so we recommend Russian readers to use some bypassing means. We’re not going to litigate or play cat and mouse with Roskomnadzor by constantly changing domains, the banned site’s spokesperson told ForkLog.

In addition, bitnovosti spokespersons recommended their Russian readers to make a principal choice whether to live in the swamp of Runet that gets increasingly enclosed against all kinds of ‘wrong information’ by censors, or find a road to the free internet.

Many will probably dislike that resolve, but it may seem reasonable at some point. Playing cat and mouse indeed can only exhaust site owners under continuous pressure from Roskomnadzor, they say at Roskomsvoboda.

There are instances when the same resource was blocked on repetitive basis. We might remember recurring banning of Lurkmore the encyclopaedia, or ban of all Grani.Ru mirrors which will soon be able to commemorate an anniversary of having been banned for the 500th time, they told.

What next?

Any Bitcoin site now has the same question in mind: what should we do if we receive the note? Boil in the same cauldron with the system, or take a French leave hoping for the readers’ awareness of methods to bypass blocking?
CCFR Founder Igor Chepkasov suppose that the state entities embarked on checking Russian bitcoin-community for strength. That’s why, continues Igor, one should not try to find any logic in actions of law enforcement and Russian courts.

That’s why one shouldn’t get excited by the recent winning at court. Benevolence of a judge just seemed so, and you might as well lose the next lawsuit. Possess your soul in patience, your lawyers at hand, and cease looking for and assigning ‘ill-natured’ persons amongst your confederates. Concentrate on actually joining your forces and accumulating knowledge and efforts as you will soon need them in the fight for your place under the sun,” Chepkasov recommends
Any censorship is pure evil, whatever were the initial intentions. Everyone knows what’s down Pia Desideria. The same place where all those organizers will eventually find themselves, they added at Bitnovosti.

ForkLog editorial board recommends its Russian readers to refresh their knowledge on bypassing blockages, and, hoping for the best, get ready for new censorship achievements of Russian officials. Bitcoin and technologies underlying it are intended for making not only finance, but information of any kind, more available and free, after all.

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