District justice: Roskomnadzor continues to block cryptocurrency sites

In Russia, another round of blocking cryptocurrency sites was held, including the Bits.media forum. According to the decision of the Nyandom district court in the Arkhangelsk region, five more resources are blocked.

Group blocking of sites about cryptocurrencies in Russia began in 2015, and since then, several more such cases have been added every year. They were based on a letter from the Bank of Russia published in January 2014. However, the first trial of illegal blocking of cryptocurrency sites was won with the participation of Bits. media. In 2016-2017, several popular services, mainly exchanges, were blocked. 2019 was marked by the blocking of news sites and monitoring of bestchange exchanges, which was also able to get the court decision overturned.

The beginning of 2020 was no exception, and already at the beginning of March there are two cases. The first of them was blocking five sites: btcphone.ru, nicechange.org, alfatop.me, bitokk.com and prostocoin.com. the Decision was made on February 4 by the Nyandomsky district court of the Arkhangelsk region, and the plaintiff was the assistant Prosecutor of the Nyandomsky district Kondratov A. A. Since March 5, the above sites were entered in the Roskomnadzor register.

On the same day, some users of the bits.media forum started complaining about the unavailability of the resource. As a result of the research, it was found out that the forum was blacklisted at the request of the Federal tax service more than two years ago because of the topic about online casinos, created and abandoned a year earlier, in 2016.

The forum topic that caused the ban has already been removed, and a dialogue is underway with Roskomnadzor about removing the forum from the registry. At the same time, some providers (obviously using DPI) were able to restrict access to a specific page, but most block access to the entire site. Interestingly, providers are interested in blocking sites as quickly as possible, since they face sanctions from the regulator for failure to comply with the order. But the lifting of the ban may take several months, since no penalty is provided in this case.

Site owner btcphone.ru already plans to challenge another illegal block. It is possible that the owners of the remaining blocked resources and other members of the community will join it, since such “cases” are already becoming a trend, despite the fact that all of them are recognized as illegal when considered in higher instances.

It is impossible not to notice that most cases of blocking cryptocurrency sites have a number of common features:

The lack of the victims. Most lawsuits are filed on the initiative of district prosecutors, and in different regions (St. Petersburg, Sverdlovsk, Omsk, and now the Arkhangelsk region). They do not “protect” specific people, but “an indefinite circle of persons”, while the district court’s decision is made “on behalf of the Russian Federation” and leads to a ban on access to sites throughout the country.

No violation of laws. Plaintiffs-prosecutors as arguments usually cite arguments from the above-mentioned information letter of the Central Bank of the Russian Federation about money surrogates, the lack of regulation of cryptocurrencies, the absence of issuers, etc. However, none of the current Russian laws defines the concept of cryptocurrencies, does not equate them to monetary surrogates, does not prohibit operations with them, and even more so, the posting of information about them. That is why decisions stamped by district courts are just as easily overturned in the future.

Random selection of sites to block. The basis for the claim is not the statements of victims or any system research, but “monitoring of the Internet”, conducted by the same employees of the Prosecutor’s office. At the same time, in the selection of sites-“responders» there is no logic: out of thousands of Russian-language websites and services about cryptocurrencies, usually no more than 5-10 are selected, of various types and unrelated to each other. Obviously, their list is determined only by search results and personal likes of “researchers”.

Of course, the community does not ignore the ongoing pressure from the authorities – in most cases, without legal grounds. On the one hand, there are many precedents for lifting blockages, which makes it possible to hope that in the future even district courts in the regions will take them into account. On the other hand, “malicious cryptocurrencies” are organized, looking for technical methods of counteraction and thinking about switching to decentralized services, which are much more difficult to block.