Sisyphean toil

In the first article, I talked about how decisions are being made about blocking websites and, for which the court, could deprive Russians of access to a particular resource. There are no less problems in the process of implementing the restrictions.

The fact that locks have a destructive effect on the infrastructure of the Internet has been repeatedly stated by experts and representatives of large companies. I will not concentrate on technical nuances, instead I will try to draw a look from the other side of the “barricades” and what it leads to.

From the outside, the impression may be created that for representatives of state bodies the damage caused to the Internet by blocking remains unclear. This is not true.

Conscious harm

The remark that telecom operators should block a specific page with prohibited information, and not the entire site by IP address, is present in the letter of the Russian Ministry of Education and Science “ On sending methodological materials to ensure children's information security when using Internet resources ”. The same proposal is also found in the currently inactive disposal of Roskomnadzor dated July 23, 2013 No. 18 .

Roskomnadzor is also aware of the side effects of blockages. On the website of the federal service, you can find an abstract dated 2013 , where Blocking by IP addresses is recognized as a very rude method of blocking Internet sites (p.39) and states that in almost all cases it leads to excessive blocking (p.57) .

According to the public organization " RosKomSvoboda ", which monitors the activities of Roskomnadzor as of 07.06.2015, about 96% of all Internet resources inaccessible to Internet users from the Russian Federation were blocked illegally.

On August 27, 2017, in percentage terms, the situation has changed little . Wrongly blocked 97% of sites. Absolute values ​​show the growth dynamics of “collateral damage” to more eloquently — the number of sites blocked at the same time has increased more than thirty-one times, from 252,203 sites to 7,820,537 resources.

In the same abstract from the Roskomnadzor website , the problems associated with a decrease in the performance of the Internet (p.40) in connection with the implementation of such locks are stated.

The blatant technical errors made in the process of their implementation regularly lead to malfunctions of the network infrastructure. Many still remember the “ attacks on the DNS of a blocked Internet resource ” in June 2017, illegal “white lists” of resources and blocking Google .

Due to the cross-border nature of the Internet, Roskomnazor’s actions are also noticed by network users outside the Russian Federation. Interlocks at the level of long-distance providers Rostelecom and Vimpelcom affected operators in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Ukraine and a number of other countries ( p.41 ).

Without knowing the situation, it can be assumed that the considerable collateral damage caused to an indefinite circle of people is compensated by the high efficiency of these measures and their usefulness, but this is not so.

Ghost effect

The effectiveness of methods of blocking access to sites on the Internet is steadily declining, and its long-term prospects remain an open question and this is recognized in the above-mentioned abstract ( p.74 ).

The widespread introduction of data encryption, necessary both for businesses and individuals, already today makes the technical implementation mechanisms for limiting the dissemination of information of little relevance.

The prohibition of access to the site from the territory of the Russian Federation, even if the lion’s share of its users are Russians, does not lead to the closure of the resource. Network blocking inevitably stimulates the search for ways to circumvent it on the part of communication participants, this cat-and-mouse game has become its inevitable by-product ( p . 50 ).

According to the famous maxim, formulated by one of the founders of the Electronic Frontier Foundation , a well-known network activist, John Gilmore:
"The Internet perceives censorship as a technical error and bypasses it."
The longer the limitations exist, the more effective and easy-to-use countermeasures appear.

The question of how many providers fulfill the instructions of Roskomnadzor is also interesting. Nobody seriously asked them until Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev decided to personally check the availability of one of the largest Russian-speaking pirated resources from WI-FI, the network of the All-Russian State University of Cinematography (VGIK), at the meeting of the government council on cinema, where held a meeting.

Subsequently, work on the deployment of an automated control system for telecom operators was intensified.

AS “Revizor”
Automated system for monitoring telecommunications operators' compliance with the requirements established by Articles 15.1-15.4 of the Federal Law of July 27, 2006 No. 149- “On Information, Information Technologies and Information Protection” - a hardware-software complex

Perhaps representatives of providers that they see these lines will be able to tell about their interaction with the "Auditor" in more detail. I emphasize that this system is not considered to be a measuring instrument , and therefore, from the point of view of the regulator, it does not need a measurement technique fixed in the documents and is not subject to calibration.

According to the regulator's plan, the “Auditor” records all cases of accessibility of prohibited sites from the provider’s network without exception, and his testimony serves as a pretext to initiate administrative offense cases.

From April 25, 2017 for non-performance of obligations to limit or renew access to information on the Internet , fines in the amount of 3,000 rubles to 5,000 rubles for officials, from 10,000 rubles to 30,000 rubles for individual entrepreneurs and from 50,000 rubles to 100,000 rubles for legal entities.

And yet, tightening legislation does not seem to give an absolute result. At least, if you take the address of a blocked resource and check it for accessibility from various regions of the Russian Federation using one of the free network services, the result will not be one hundred percent.

Serial lawmakers

To understand how the situation will develop further, it makes sense to briefly list the proposals that have been voiced one way or another in recent years. Their number is only growing, but most of them are capaciously described in one phrase: “It’s worth picking up a hammer, and all the problems around you become like nails.”

Thus, almost all the proposals relate to the prohibition of new categories of information and vesting with the right to restrict access to information out of court of new state bodies.

The State Duma Committee on Family Issues spoke in favor of amendments providing for restriction of access to resources on the Internet on which obscene language is found.

There is a bill providing for the right to demand restriction of access to Internet resources of an extremist nature, with calls for unauthorized meetings and uncoordinated actions of prosecutors of the subjects of the federation.

According to the Minister of Natural Resources and Ecology Sergey Donskoy, the Ministry of Natural Resources of Russia has been preparing amendments for several years to restrict the dissemination of information on the sale of rare animals.

Rospotrebnadzor of Russia appealed to the Government with a proposal to block the sites of unscrupulous online stores and aggregators - by analogy with the suspension of traditional shops and restaurants, and also advocated extrajudicial blocking of sites selling prohibited and falsified goods.

A similar initiative is the Association of Internet Trading Companies (ACIT), which proposes to develop "penalties in the form of administrative suspension of activities, blocking relevant websites on the Internet at the level of their domain name." And this initiative was approved by the Ministry of Industry and Trade. In addition, ACIT announced the preparation of a draft law providing for blocking websites of online stores that do not pay VAT .

There is a steady tendency to move away from the use of blocking access to sites to protect children from harmful information, to use it as a sanction, to punish non-compliance with legislation in various fields.

Another group of initiatives includes comprehensive amendments that significantly affect the legal status of companies operating in telecommunications networks.

There are already quite a few such indirect restrictions. They are superimposed on the media, search engines, news aggregators, organizers of the dissemination of information. Legislative regulation of online cinemas, instant messengers and VPN has become a reality already in the process of collecting material for this article. Recently it became known that members of the Federation Council are exploring the possibility of regulating and blocking foreign media that broadcast in Russian. On the sidelines, many more such surprises are probably being prepared.

The initiative of the Federal Antimonopoly Service stands apart. According to the Vedomosti newspaper , legislation may be amended to slow down access to sites whose owners violate Russian law , as well as temporary blocking of sites for up to three months. The initiative has already been supported by Assistant to the President of Russia Igor Shchegolev in an interview with RBC .

Such a violation of the Network neutrality - network neutrality - the most important principle of the functioning of the Internet, included in the legislation of the European Union countries and the United States is quite possible. Indeed, in the legislation of the Russian Federation there is no its fixation, with the exception of the only mention in one of the documents of the Federal Antimonopoly Service .

These initiatives can be evaluated in different ways, but the fact that they are not enough to somehow remedy the situation, I believe, should not be a subject of controversy.

There are actually no proposals suggesting at least some steps to correct the mistakes made, despite all the shortcomings of the existing procedures for restricting the dissemination of information. As there is no, alas, a ready-made, universal solution that would suit everyone interested in the smooth operation of the Internet.

Gordian knot

The simplest in theory and the most difficult in practice is to solve the problem with one blow, hacking from the shoulder in the style of Alexander the Great - cancel the existing restrictions and return to self-regulation of the Internet as an industry.

Alas, this scenario is not realistic. The declaration of independence of cyberspace after 20 years is forgotten. The genie is released from the bottle, government regulation in the digital space has become a global trend that will continue to evolve.

Now, at the very beginning of this process, the regulator is in a hurry to spread its influence ignoring the consequences, not knowing whether there is a need for it and where intervention really helps the development of the Internet, knowing whether or not, paves the way to Cyberbalkanization.

Government agencies care about the security of Runet’s critical infrastructure, seek control over it, limit the use of VPN, TOR, I2P , hoping to take control of information, and theoretically, this could not be so bad. But, as you can see, the legislation itself, the execution of which the regulator is trying to achieve, is defective in many aspects.

Civil disobedience, and blocking bypassing otherwise, will cease only when public agreement is reached as to the distribution of what information should be limited, when laws that meet the requirements of proportionality, sufficiency and reasonableness are applied in this area.

In the meantime, the more diverse acts are adopted in this area, the more the regulator is discredited. This is despite the fact that even within the framework of the chosen course, it is possible to take a number of steps that can, if not improve the state of affairs, then at least slow down its deterioration.

Speech, for example, about allocation of separate instance, for consideration of affairs about blocking of sites. Cases on the protection of copyright on the Internet, for several years considering the Moscow City Court exclusively, so this is not an unprecedented step.

It seems that the allocation of a specialized court would allow at least a little to streamline the practice and form with the judges a circle of professional industry experts, which the vast majority of district courts do not have.

It is even more important to simplify the process of appealing blocking decisions, to enable all affected persons to participate in this process. Whether it is the owners of all sites, access to which was denied, or users whose right to freely distribute information is blocked by blocking. So you can set up a feedback system that signals the inappropriateness of judicial blocking of sites.

Today, it seems that despite all their shortcomings, the prohibitions of sites are considered as a panacea, which they are by no means. They only mask existing (or far-fetched) problems, be it the sale of flamingos without documents, or the protection of children from blue whales.

If you stop talking about suicides on the network, will they stop? At least, will their percentage decrease?

“No,” I assumed in 2012. “Of course,” supporters of the Unified Registry of Sites stated. But I and they were equally mistaken. No one had enough data, scientific research, objective assessments of the potential effectiveness of website blocking for Russian realities.

Is it any wonder that the mechanism created in a blind attempt at once to relieve the symptoms of a multitude of diverse social and economic problems, the roots of which do not lie in the virtual space, does not work as much as we wanted?


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