The Censorship of Extremist Content in the Russian Internet

This research paper aims at investigating the effectiveness of the Russian law enforcement in combating cyber hate. The implemented research strategy consisted of two major steps: building a list of the extremist websites in Runet and testing whether they are accessible in Russia and in the Netherlands. For building the URL list the editorial approach was used; the federal list of extremist materials was used as a source for the list. For checking the accessibility of the websites we used the Censorship Explorer tool and ten proxies located in Russia. The research shows that the implementation of the Law on Counteracting Extremist Activity in Russian internet has not been done rigorously. Even though some websites display extremist content, they are still available online.  The research also did not detect any instances of the first generation control. That means that online content, at least content officially listed as forbidden, is controlled in different ways. The majority of investigated websites was most probably taken down or deleted entirely, instead of blocked only on the territory of Russia. In addition, researchers and reporters wishing to monitor the instances of censorship in Russia will face a challenge of very low transparency of the Russian internet control. It is not common to see a message clarifying the reason for a website being deleted. It is interesting that the blacklist of extremist content is official and publicly available, whereas the execution of the law is not that transparent.