Putin Asked to Investigate Damage Caused By Telegram Web-Blocking

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In a report presented to President Vladimir Putin, Internet Ombudsman Dmitry Marinichev says there should be an investigation into the actions of telecoms watchdog Roscomnadzor after it tried to block Telegram last month. Millions of innocent IP addresses were caught up in the dragnet, a result of Roscomnadzor not carrying out a damage assessment, Marinichev says.

After a Moscow court gave the go-ahead for Telegram to be banned in Russia last month, the Internet became a battleground.

On the instructions of telecoms watchdog Roscomnadzor, ISPs across Russia tried to block Telegram by blackholing millions of IP addresses. The effect was both dramatic and pathetic. While Telegram remained stubbornly online, countless completely innocent services suffered outages as Roscomnadzor charged ahead with its mission.

Over the past several weeks, Roscomnadzor has gone some way to clean up the mess, partly by removing innocent Google and Amazon IP addresses from Russia’s blacklist. However, the collateral damage was so widespread it’s called into question the watchdog’s entire approach to web-blockades and whether they should be carried out at any cost.

This week, thanks to an annual report presented to President Vladimir Putin by business ombudsman Boris Titov, the matter looks set to be escalated. ‘The Book of Complaints and Suggestions of Russian Business’ contains comments from Internet ombudsman Dmitry Marinichev, who says that the Prosecutor General’s Office should launch an investigation into Roscomnadzor’s actions.

Marinichev said that when attempting to take down Telegram using aggressive technical means, Roscomnadzor relied upon “its own interpretation of court decisions” to provide guidance, TASS reports.

“When carrying out blockades of information resources, Roskomnadzor did not assess the related damage caused to them,” he said.

More than 15 million IP addresses were blocked, many of them with functions completely unrelated to the operations of Telegram. Marinichev said that the consequences were very real for those who suffered collateral damage.

“[The blocking led] to a temporary inaccessibility of Internet resources of a number of Russian enterprises in the Internet sector, including several banks and government information resources,” he reported.

In advice to the President, Marinichev suggests that the Prosecutor General’s Office should look into “the legality and validity of Roskomnadzor’s actions” which led to the “violation of availability of information resources of commercial companies” and “threatened the integrity, sustainability, and functioning of the unified telecommunications network of the Russian Federation and its critical information infrastructure.”

Early May, it was reported that in addition to various web services, around 50 VPN, proxy and anonymization platforms had been blocked for providing access to Telegram. In a May 22 report, that number had swelled to more than 80 although 10 were later unblocked after they stopped providing access to the messaging platform.

This week, Roscomnadzor has continued with efforts to block access to torrent and streaming platforms. In a new wave of action, the telecoms watchdog ordered ISPs to block at least 47 mirrors and proxies providing access to previously blocked sites.

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