Prosecutor’s Office Fined 150,000 Rubles For Bitcoin News Site Blockade
A Russian prosecutor’s office has been fined 150,000 Rubles (around $2,275 USD) for its bitcoin news site blockade. The money will be awarded to bitcoininfo.ru website owner Nikolay Tonkoshkurov. His site was blocked without official warning or court proceedings in 2016. The site has been translating articles about bitcoin, blockchain, and fintech into Russian for local readers since 2013.
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The Downshifter’s Holy War Against New Information
Since 2016, a prosecutor in St. Petersburg has been trying to legally block the site because of the “dangers” of its content. He proclaimed that spreading information about cryptocurrencies was a crime against the Central Bank of Russia, which recently showed an interest in blocking financial websites. After being successfully blocked, bitcoininfo.ru‘s owner began a two-year legal battle against the blockade.
In November 2018, the Supreme Court of Russia delivered the decision to fine the prosecutor’s office 150,000 Rubles, with the funds to be directed to Tonkoshkurov (who now operates the site as cryptorussia.ru).
After the lengthy battle between Tonkoshkurov’s lawyers from RosComSvoboda’s DRC law group and the St. Petersburg prosecutor’s office, the Supreme Court invalidated two previous verdicts, determining them to be unfair. Per DRC legal experts:
“After the court order cancellation in September 2018, there was a second iteration of the case hearings. There, the Prosecutor’s Office understood that their weak position and unacceptable demands won’t play out. They gave up on the case and tried to silently escape the story. But the trick failed.”
Money on the Barrel, Please
For the first time in Russian history, a court delivered a judgment that prosecutors were required to not only release the blockade, but also pay court costs. While the norm in many developed countries, the decision is unprecedented in Russia. Per Digital Rights Center lawyers Sarkis Darbinyan and Kate Abashina (who led Tonkoshkurov’s defence):
“We have formed an important case for future practice. Now, the prosecutors will think twice before filing half-baked or evidence-free lawsuits that damage internet businesses and their clients. The one who walks the road to the end wins it all. Don’t be afraid to fight for your rights in the court.”
Security Experts Note Unexpected Progress of Russian Internet Laws
Given the ordinarily negative or contradictory nature of regulatory news from Russia when it comes to crypto, this decision has provoked notable internet personalities to speak out. Internet Protection Society chief Mikhail Klimarev wrote in his Telegram channel:
“The case is truly a first of its kind. DRC lawyers made it to the Supreme Court, unblocked the site, and charged the prosecutor’s office 150k. This is a tiny sum. But you need to be a hard nut to win a case against law enforcement in modern conditions… Let’s note that we also have the IoT and AI stuff coming. Looks like we’ll need an army or two of legal experts to start operating in this area.”
Tonkoshkurov will use the funds to pay his legal fees. He claims that he spent 234,000 Rubles defending himself and his project from short-sighted centralized government interference.
Will the prosecutor’s office heed the warning established by the courts and be more lenient toward online crypto businesses in Russia or will crypto news blockades continue? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.
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