The Central Bank of Russia Wants to Block Sites Without the Need for Court Approval
Elvira Nabiullina, head of the Central Bank of Russia, is requesting the right to ban four groups of websites. The groups are websites devoted to “credit organizations”, “financial services operating without a licence”, “spreading misinformation”, and “pretenders”.
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Nabiullina Wants to Control the “Red Button” by Herself
According to a source close to the bank’s management, Nabiullina plans to pull the trigger by herself any time she finds “criminals” on the internet. Her intention is to identify fraudulent sites and exclude them from search engine results for all Russian IPs, without a court order.
Nabiullina’s Hateful Four
The first two categories are “financial services operating without a license” and “credit organizations”. Excluding them from search results for all Russian IPs will likely cause numerous freelancers — artists, journalists, developers, and hackers — to look for paid VPN services.
Besides TOR and I2P, that would be the only way they could access sites to anonymously convert bitcoin, QIWI, Yandex, and other virtual forms of money to cash and vice versa. In some ways, the restrictions may make ordinary people interested in modern technologies and that’s definitely good for everybody in Russia.
The next category is websites that “spread misinformation about credit organizations”. Since no one posts “misinformation” about banks or loans on the Internet intentionally, Nabiullina appears to be seeking the right to ban “banking users’ feedback” on forums dedicated to bank reviews.
Surprisingly, deputy Prime Minister Maksim Akimov disliked the CBR head’s intention to ban resources used for the so-called spreading of misinformation.
The final category is “pretenders”. Nabiullina has somehow decided that sites with domain names or logos that are similar to well-known names or logos may “mislead users”. Thus, “pretenders” are set to be banned. Needless to say, many clients use bookmarks, Google, or DuckGo to access bank homepages. The first search result tends to link to the official site, not any “fraudulent version”.
As for internet opinion exchange platforms, they tend to be popular among a fairly intelligent crowd who tend to check feedback, read reviews, and know how to separate fake domain names from real ones.
Social Reaction to the Central Bank of Russia’s Overreach
Two major Russian banks (including VTB) have supported the initiative, pointing out that it may help decrease the number of monetary crimes. Vice President of the Russian Association of Banks, Elman Mekhtiev, thinks the measures will help “protect consumer rights”.
Screaming from the other side of the divide, Artem Kozlyk, the chief of RoskomSvoboda (the Russian equivalent of the American EFF), doesn’t support the initiatives. According to Kozlyk, blocked criminals can move to other domains in seconds, while blocked IPs and sub-networks remain in the darkness, with thousands of law-abiding sites on them. All because of the occasional “fraudulent” site.
He also noted that as the Russian government already uses the Roskomnadzor service to manage an internet “blacklist”, there’s no need for one more censor and more bans. Additionally, site owners have no right of appeal. Per Kozlyk:
”Many sites appear blocked because of a mistake, with or without a court order. That’s why we can’t extend the list of government services accredited to ban websites. And a blocked resource can’t appeal. Usually, it has to delete some questionable content to return to the web.”
Why do Russian officials want to control all digital money operations? Will the Central Bank of Russia get these measures approved? Sound off below.
Images by Jeff Fawkes