Late July, President Vladimir Putin signed a new law which requires local telecoms watchdog Rozcomnadzor to maintain a list of banned domains while identifying sites, services, and software that provide access to them.
Rozcomnadzor is required to contact the operators of such services with a request for them to block banned resources. If they do not, then they themselves will become blocked. In addition, search engines are also required to remove blocked resources from their search results, in order to discourage people from accessing them.
Removing entire domains from search results is a controversial practice and something which search providers have long protested against. They argue that it’s not their job to act as censors and in any event, content remains online, whether it’s indexed by search or not.
Nevertheless, on October 1 the new law (“On Information, Information Technologies and Information Protection”) came into effect and it appears that Russia’s major search engines have been very busy in its wake.
According to a report from Rozcomnadzor, search providers Google, Yandex, Mail.ru, Rambler, and Sputnik have stopped presenting information in results for sites that have been permanently blocked by ISPs following a decision by the Moscow City Court.
“To date, search engines have stopped access to 786 pirate sites listed in the register of Internet resources which contain content distributed in violation of intellectual property rights,” the watchdog reports.
The domains aren’t being named by Rozcomnadzor or the search engines but are almost definitely those sites that have had complaints filed against them at the City Court on multiple occasions but have failed to take remedial action. Also included will be mirror and proxy sites which either replicate or facilitate access to these blocked and apparently defiant domains.
The news comes in the wake of reports earlier this month that Russia is considering a rapid site blocking mechanism that could see domains rendered inaccessible within 24 hours, without any parties having to attend a court hearing.
While it’s now extremely clear that Russia has one of the most aggressive site-blocking regimes in the world, with both ISPs and search engines required to prevent access to infringing sites, it’s uncertain whether these measures will be enough to tackle rampant online piracy.
New research published in October by Group-IB revealed that despite thousands of domains being blocked, last year the market for pirate video in Russia more than doubled.