Russia has reached the highest level of intensity in its efforts to quash internet information, banning 14,800 websites between December 5 and 11, according to the nongovernmental organization Roskomsvoboda.
Russian-language media reported that a substantial chunk of the blockings came in response to out-of-court requests filed by an unconfirmed entity believed by human rights activists to be the Prosecutor General’s Office.
If true, this represents a significant uptick in online censorship in the Russian Federation, which has blocked an average of just under 5,000 sites a week in 2022. It would also mark the highest level of take-downs since April 2021, when more than 18,000 domains were blocked in connection with protests over de facto Russian political opposition leader Alexey Navalny.
“Presumably, this is the Prosecutor General’s Office, because it was she who ‘suddenly’ disappeared from our downloads,” a spokeswoman for Roskomsvoboda told Russian news outlet Kommersant.
The Prosecutor General’s Office is authorized to block any websites offering information about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, as well as those involved in more banal criminal activity, such as offering to sell fake diplomas online.
A free-speech advocate, Roskomsvoboda takes its name in part from the organization it opposes, Roskomnadzor, an agency associated with blacklisting, government censorship, and state-imposed internet restrictions.
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