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Applications like the social networking site Facebook, the Russian social networking site VKontakte, the Twitter microblogging platform, and various international blog-hosting services are freely available. The video-sharing site YouTube is currently accessible, although it has come under threat in some localities. For example, in July 2010, a court in Komsomolsk-on-Amur issued a decision instructing a local ISP to block YouTube, along [Internet in Russia] no. 31 (Autumn 2010), http://bd.fom.ru/pdf/Bulliten_31_osen_2010_short.pdf (in Russian).

iKS-Consulting, [Russias Broadband Indices Grow Rapidly], RuMetrika, October 15, 2010, http://rumetrika.rambler.ru/review/0/4524 (in Russian).

Alexey Sidorenko, Russia: Mapping Broadband Internet Prices, Global Voices, March 14, 2010, http://globalvoicesonline.org/2010/03/14/russia-mapping-broadband-internet-prices/.

International Telecommunication Union (ITU), ICT Statistics 2009Mobile Cellular Subscriptions, http://www.itu.int/ITU-D/ICTEYE/Indicators/Indicators.aspx, accessed February 14, 2010.

The frequency used by 3G had been restricted by the military as strategic. RUSSIA FREEDOM HOUSE Freedom on the Net with four other websites, because they hosted extremist content including copies of Adolf Hitlers Mein Kampf and skinhead videos. The ruling was later overturned after the provider filed an appeal.9 Also in July, a court in Ingushetia ordered local providers to ban the entire blogging platform LiveJournal because it hosted a blog deemed to promote terrorism and extremism.Five access providersComstar, Vimpelcom, ER-Telecom, AKADO, and the stateowned SvyazInvestcontrolled more than 67 percent of the broadband market as of February 2010.11 Regional branches of SvyazInvest account for 36 percent of subscribers, up from 27.8 percent in 2008. As at the federal level, regional dominance usually depends on political connections and the tacit approval of regional authorities. Although this situation is not the direct result of legal or economic obstacles, it nonetheless reflects an element of corruption that is widespread in the telecommunications sector and other parts of the Russian economy.

Three leading operatorsMTS, Vimpelcom, and MegaFonhold 83 percent of the mobile-phone market.12 While formally independent, each of these firms has indirect ties to the government. According to independent analyst Vadim Gorshkov, MegaFon is connected with former minister of telecommunications Leonid Reyman, and MTS is linked to the Moscow regional leadership. The information and communications technology (ICT) sector is regulated by the Federal Service for the Supervision of Communications, Information Technology, and Mass Media (Roskomnadzor), whose director is appointed by the prime minister. Given Russias closed political system and dominant executive branch, the appointment process is not transparent. There are no special restrictions on opening cybercafes or starting ISP businesses, but unfair competition and other such obstacles are not unusual in Russia.

LIMITS ON CONTENT Although attempts to establish a comprehensive, centralized filtering system have been abandoned, several recent cases of blocking have been reported. In December 2009, a Alexey Sidorenko, Russia: The First Case of YouTube Ban, Global Voices, July 30, 2010, http://globalvoicesonline.org/2010/07/30/russia-the-first-case-of-youtube-ban/.

- [In Ingushetia Entire LiveJournal Blocked Because of One Blog], CNews, August 5, 2010, http://www.cnews.ru/news/line/index.shtml2010/08/05/403880 (in Russian).

Advanced Communications and Media, Russian Residential Broadband Data, February 2010, news release, April 23, 2010, http://www.acm-consulting.com/news-and-data/data-downloads/cat_view/16-broadband.htmlorderby=dmdate_published.

Json & Partners Consulting, : , 2009 [Information Bulletin: Mobile Communications in Russia, June 2009], http://www.json.ru/files/news/Cellular_Market_Watch_June_09_RUS.pdf (in Russian), accessed May 2010.

RUSSIA FREEDOM HOUSE Freedom on the Net number of ISPs blocked access to the radical Islamist website Kavkaz Center.13 At almost the same time, the wireless provider Yota blocked several opposition sites.14 The practice of exerting pressure on service providers and content producers by telephone has become increasingly common. Police and representatives of the prosecutors office call the owners and shareholders of websites, and anyone else in a position to remove unwanted material and ensure that the problem does not come up again. Such pressure encourages selfcensorship, and most providers do not wait for court orders to remove targeted materials.

As a result, there has been a massive exodus of opposition websites to foreign site-hosting providers, as well as a trend toward greater use of social networking sites.

Regional blocking, whereby a website is blocked in some areas but remains available elsewhere in the country, is one of the methods used by the authorities to exert more control over the internet. Apart from the YouTube incidents mentioned above (see Obstacles to Access), a state-controlled local provider in August 2010 blocked the independent portal Tulksiye Pryaniki, which had published articles that were critical of the government. In another example of the phenomenon, a regional network provider in December 2010 temporarily blocked its users from accessing the environmentalist website Ecmo.ru, allegedly because the site initiated a petition to dismiss a local mayor. Regional blocking is arguably more efficient than nationwide blocking in that it attracts less attention and affects only the most relevant audiences.Content is often removed on the grounds that it violates Russias laws against extremism. Providers are punished for hosting materials that are proscribed in a list on the website of the Ministry of Justice.16 The list is updated on a monthly basis and included items as of January 2011.17 The procedure for identifying extremist materials is nontransparent, leaving ample room for politically motivated content removal.18 There have , [The Shell Hole Went Public, and Fake Doubts Were Dispersed by a Second Blow], Norvezhskiy Lesnoy (blog), December 2, 2009, http://nl.livejournal.com/869414.html (in Russian).

Yota [Filters from Yota], Drugoi (blog), December 5, 2009, http://drugoi.livejournal.com/3111589.html (in Russian). The sites blocked were Kasparov.ru, Rufront.ru, Rusolidarnost.ru, Nazbol.ru, Namarsh.ru, and Newtimes.ru. Later the provider explained that there was a technical problem, although journalists at the Moscow Times found evidence to the contrary. See Nikolaus von Twickel, Internet Provider Says It Blocks Sites, Moscow Times, December 8, 2009, http://www.themoscowtimes.com/news/article/internet-provider-says-it-blocks-sites/391080.html.

Its Not the Kremlin, Babbage (blog), Economist, August 25, 2010, http://www.economist.com/blogs/babbage/2010/08/internet_censorship_russia.

Two such cases occurred in the Kirov and Khanty-Mansiisk regions. See Alexey Sidorenko, Russia: Hosting Providers Sued for Refusal to Block Web Sites, Global Voices, May 13, 2010, http://globalvoicesonline.org/2010/05/13/russia-hostingproviders-sued-for-refusal-to-block-web-sites/; [Provider Obliged to Filter Extremist Sites], Regnum, February 24, 2010, http://www.regnum.ru/news/1256707.html (in Russian).

Ministry of Justice, [Federal List of Extremist Materials], http://www.minjust.ru/ru/activity/nko/fedspisok/ (in Russian), accessed May 2010.

As Dmitri Solovyevs case showed, the results may vary depending on the institution where the extremism check was performed. See Alexey Sidorenko, Russia: Prosecution Against Opposition Blogger Stopped, Global Voices, January 28, 2010, http://globalvoicesonline.org/2010/01/28/russia-prosecution-against-opposition-blogger-stopped/.

RUSSIA FREEDOM HOUSE Freedom on the Net been at least three cases of site closures, two of them temporary, on the grounds that the affected sites hosted extremist materials.19 In February 2010, the major opposition portal Grani.ru was checked for extremism, but the authorities apparently found nothing incriminating.Nonpolitical reasons for content removal have also been reported, with most involving child pornography and file-sharing services that violate copyright law. In May 2010, eight hosting providers, which together control over 30 percent of the hosting market, signed a charter designed to fight child pornography.21 The agreement places responsibility for content with the hosting providers, calls on them to install monitoring mechanisms, and urges closer cooperation with police.22 In June, over 5,000 websites containing sexually explicit images of minors were identified by the Friendly RuNet foundation, which works with various government agencies and ISPs; the sites were subsequently shut down.23 With respect to copyright violations, the file-sharing site iFolder.ru was blocked by police for several days during the year, but the most prominent recent episode was the early 2010 suspension of the domain of the largest Russian filetracker, Torrents.ru, by regional registrar Ru-Center.Russias vibrant blogosphere includes over 7.4 million blogs, up from 3.8 million in 2008. Approximately 93 percent of Russian-language bloggers live inside the country,25 and Moscow-based bloggers dominate the community.26 President Dmitri Medvedev started a video blog in October 2007,27 in January 2009 he established a LiveJournal blog,28 and in June 2010 he opened a Twitter account.29 Since then at least 39 regional governors have followed suit.30 During the last year and a half, the role of the blogosphere grew significantly as it became not only the sole credible source of informationespecially during disasters or The affected sites were Alleng.ru, 20marta.ru, and Stringer.ru.

Alexey Sidorenko, Russia: Media Portal Undergoes Check for Extremism, Global Voices, February 21, 2010, http://globalvoicesonline.org/2010/02/21/russia-media-portal-undergoes-check-for-extremism/.

[Hosters Signed Petition Against Child Pornography], CyberSecurity.ru, May 30, 2010, http://www.cybersecurity.ru/news/94903.html (in Russian).

The text of the providers joint declaration can be found at http://hostdeclaration.ru/ (in Russian), accessed May 2010.

[Within Half a Year, 5,000 Sites with Child Pornography Were Found on the Russian Internet], Lenta.ru, July 16, 2010, http://lenta.ru/news/2010/07/16/mvd/ (in Russian).

Gregory Asmolov, Russia: Closure of Torrents.ru Makes People Suspicious of.Ru Zone, Global Voices, February 26, 2010, http://globalvoicesonline.org/2010/02/26/torrents-sochi/.

Yandex, , 2009 [Blogosphere of the Russian Internet, Spring 2009] (Moscow: Yandex, 2009), http://download.yandex.ru/company/yandex_on_blogosphere_spring_2009.pdf (in Russian).

About 67 percent of the top bloggers reside in the capital. See [Territorial Asymmetry of the Russian-Language Blogosphere, Blogosphere (blog), November 29, 2009, http://habrahabr.ru/blogs/blogosphere/76734/ (in Russian).

The Russian presidents video blog is located at http://blog.kremlin.ru/.

Dmitry Medvedevs LiveJournal blog is located at http://community.livejournal.com/blog_medvedev/.

Yelena Osipova, @MedvedevRussia, Are You Listening A Story of 6 Months on Twitter, Global Voices, December 15, 2010, http://globalvoicesonline.org/2010/12/15/medvedevrussia-are-you-listening-a-story-of-6-months-on-twitter/.

[Officials on the Net], Vedomosti, December 3, 2010, http://www.vedomosti.ru/special/governorscommunications.shtml (in Russian).

RUSSIA FREEDOM HOUSE Freedom on the Net extraordinary events like the Moscow subway bombings,31 deadly fire in Perm,32 and the summer 2010 wildfires33but also the main platform for social mobilization. Several blog campaigns were quite successful,34 although bloggers actions came to nothing when attempting to address major cases involving senior officials.The blog-hosting platforms LiveJournal, LiveInternet, Blogs.mail.ru, and Ya.ru together host 76 percent of all active Russian-language blogs.36 LiveJournal retains its leading position, although it is facing serious competition from its rivals. The Kremlin allegedly influences the blogosphere through media organizations as well as the progovernment youth movements Nashi (Ours) and Molodaya Gvardiya (Young Guard).The emergence of competing propagandist websites has led to the creation of a vast amount of content that collectively dominates search results, among other effects.38 Propagandist commentators simultaneously react to discussions of taboo topics, including the historical role of Soviet leader Joseph Stalin, political opposition, dissidents like Mikhail Khodorkovsky, murdered journalists, and cases of international conflict or rivalry (with countries such as Estonia, Georgia, and Ukraine, but also with the foreign policies of the United States and the European Union). Minority languages are underrepresented in Russias blogosphere.

As social networking sites and blogging platforms have grown in importance, they have caught the attention of both the government and Kremlin-friendly business magnates, or oligarchs. Metals magnate Alisher Usmanov owns 50 percent of SUP, the company that owns LiveJournal, as well as a 35 percent stake in Digital Sky Technologies, which owns the two most popular social networking sites in Russia and a number of others elsewhere in the Alexey Sidorenko, Russia: Initial Coverage of the Moscow Subway Bombings, Global Voices, March 29, 2010, http://globalvoicesonline.org/2010/03/29/russia-initial-coverage-of-the-moscow-subway-bombings/.

Gregory Asmolov, Russia: Online Forum Beats Media in Covering Night Club Fire, Global Voices, December 5, 2009, http://globalvoicesonline.org/2009/12/05/russia-online-forum-beats-media-in-covering-night-club-fire/.

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