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Rules Governing Registration of Domain Names Allow Law Enforcement to Arbitrarily Block Websites

Source: Openinform

7 February 2012

The Federal Drug Control Agency has paralyzed the work of an Internet resource that criticized the drugs policy of the Russian government. Human rights defenders are concerned that the new rules for registration of domain names for the domains .RU and .РФ, as confirmed by the Coordination Centre of the National Internet Domain, has given law enforcement bodies the ability to discontinue assignment of any domain without giving a reason.

The Moscow department of the Federal Drug Control Agency sent the national registrar for domain names a demand to discontinue assignment of the domain The administrator of this domain is the Andrei Rylkov Foundation, well known for its severe criticism of the Russian government’s drugs policy. At the same time, as a result of the new rules, the drug police gave no grounds for their decision, using the catch-all phrase about an alleged posting on the website of ‘materials propagandizing the use of drugs’. As a result the Internet resource was blocked. Lawyers from Agora lodged an appeal against the decision of the Federal Drug Control Agency, on the grounds that it is unlawful and ungrounded. The lawyers are preparing to lodge an appeal with the courts on the issue of the rules for registration of domain names.

These rules entered into force on 11 November 2011, the Open Information News Agency reports. They state that “assignment of a domain can be ended by the registrar on the basis of a written decision by the head (or deputy head or person of equivalent rank) of the body conducting a criminal investigation.’ Before this, it had been possible to stop assignment of a domain name on the basis of a court decision or of a written official demand, setting out reasons, by an official in charge of a criminal investigation. At the same time the rules make clear that blocking of a domain can be done in those cases established by federal law until it a court or the body that made the decision to cease the assignment rules otherwise.

‘In other words, hitherto the rules laid down that law enforcement had to make a formal request giving reasons,’ Agora lawyer Damir Gainutdinov points out. ‘Now law enforcement can block Internet resources they consider undesirable without giving any reasons for their decision. I am certain that changes to the rules were specially lobbied and we believe that we can put right this latest limitation on freedom of the Internet with the help of the courts.’