Five Reasons Not to Worry about the “Black List”
A Stepan Zotov | 14 November 2012
Stepan Zotov

Five Reasons Not to Worry about the “Black List”

Ironically the notorious law was adopted soon after the release of the Russian Association for Electronic Communications (RAEC) report on “The Economy of Runet — 2012” research. The analysis focused on 11 markets of Russian Internet economy from software as a service (SaaS) to hosting and domains. The total growth rate of the whole market is estimated at 33% while the expected value by the fall of Y2012 is expected to make it up to $23 bn. 
It is no surprise that the markets are soaring. For a few years now we can see it as a lasting tendency. But the RAEC wasn’t going to surprise anybody. On the contrary, this organization intended to “present Runet’s history as an inspiring success story of a national scale,” as it’s said in a short English summary of the survey. 
Obviously the RAEC intended to deliver some message to the authority: “We are a real industry, we contribute to the national GDP and we want to cooperate.” Thus it would be possible to secure Internet business success and insure it against undesirable odds with regulatory bodies. The RAEC even suggested creating a special institution to improve people’s media literacy under the government’s aegis. The authorities answered almost in a month with the banishing law. 
The widely spoken law, which leaves it for official regulatory bodies to decide who to spare or who to cut down in Russian-speaking Internet has quite an innocent title “On Protecting Children from Information Harmful to Their Health and Development.”
A piece of destructive potential lies underneath the banner and it’s mostly about a random decision-making and flawed execution mechanism. Any anonymous user is capable of addressing his complaint related to a certain web-site content to the authorities (no matter would it be the Ministry of Internal Affairs or the Federal Drug Control Service). Once the complaint is received the regulator has to analyze the content of the indicated web-portal. In case the test result is positive the revised site must remove inappropriate materials within 24 hours or otherwise it fills the blacklist. 

As you can see there is no judicial prescription needed to go and shut down a web-resource. But “Your Honour’s” approval is still necessary to revive an unfairly wiped one. So it won’t take much effort to blackout your business competitor’s domain for up to 4 month — everything you need is some good connections among the g-guys. Nice weapon for those who don’t disdain cheating in business wars.
That sounds really bad and it really could be so if not one thing: “sounds” is the key word. There are at least 5 reasons one should not be afraid of the “ban-at-will” law. 

  1. For the first year (or even longer) after the law’s adoption it will be applied with great care simply because it is yet too far from being properly polished. Just look at stats — for now only 287 of total 6,891 complaints were taken into revision. Judging by the case with Russian Lurkmore web-portal, which was back online after a day of banishment, the authorities are quite flexible.
  2. Yes, it’s obviously strange to hear that, but even in spite its strictly punishing spirit the law is going to be a major force to push the authorities and business towards cooperation with each other. The officials need to make the law operational in terms of its originally proclaimed purpose (children protection). From the other side, business must secure its interests which is impossible without governmental support. And it’s a really good coincidence that the adoption of this harsh law matched the period of Russian Internet market maturing.
  3.  Skyrocketing indexes of Runet’s growth suggests a significant appeal to foreign investors who are coming to Russia not just as curios visitors but as rightful partners. This fact alone significantly contributes to prevention of abusing and misusing the new law. Now the authority has to consider the international consequences, both politics and economy related.
  4.  Well-timed and strict moderation is a must now for Russian Internet-companies. To a certain degree it can prevent troubles with the blacklist. And we can rightfully boast a great deal of experience on that very field. Especially when speaking of online games publishers. Russian users are pretty self-will and unbuttoned (consider this national games community specific feature) and, for example, we in NIKITA ONLINE have well-developed service for moderation, support and user enquiries.
  5. On various markets of Russian Internet economy there are leaders who tend to maintain civilized and legitimate interaction with each other. They are shaping the market with healthy business atmosphere. One more tendency is that now more than ever companies are likely to set up and join industrial associations maintaining the best practices and providing support for their members.