Russia’s telecom watchdog has reached preliminary agreement with the country’s search engines on measures to block local residents’ access to banned gambling sites.
This week, the Roskomnadzor agency convened a meeting with the country’s leading search engines, including Yandex, Sputnik and Mail.ru, to ensure that Russian citizens are denied access to the thousands of websites that the watchdog consigns to its ever-expanding blacklist each week.
In July, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed two federal laws: one requiring Russian internet service providers to block all mirror sites of blacklisted domains, and the other putting strict new curbs on Russians’ use of tools to circumvent these restrictions, including anonymizers and virtual private networks (VPN). The laws are set to take effect on October 1 and November 1, respectively.
At this week’s meeting, Roskomnadzor officials spelled out how it expects search engines to scrub online references to banned sites and the circumvention tools. The agency will establish an automated service that alerts search engines to blacklist updates, after which the companies will have 72 hours in which to purge the offender from their search results.
Many Russian ISPs have already automated such systems, leading to the occasional embarrassing hiccup, such as the recent temporary disabling of Google’s Russian search engine due to an inadvertent redirect to a site controlled by online bookmaker Fonbet.
While ISPs recently saw hikes in their financial penalties for domain-blocking shortcomings, specific penalties for search engines remain unspecified. Legislators are expected to add flesh to these bones during their fall session.
Unauthorized gambling sites account for a surprisingly high percentage of the domains that Roskomnadzor adds to its naughty list. In August alone, the agency blacklisted 5,970 gambling-related sites, including 886 Fonbet-related domains. GVC Holdings’ Sportingbet brand was August’s most-banned western bookmaker, with 67 domains added to the list.