Internet censorship is now beginning to sweep the county of Russia and its first big player victim appears to be online blogging forum LiveJournal. While it was re-instated, it leaves many more questions about censorship in general.
Two weeks ago, Russia passed Internet censorship legislation. Russia said it was to protect people from suicide, drug use and other criminal activity. But like so many other countries that pass legislation that restrict freedom on the Internet, the reasoning takes a back seat once passed and the abuse begins. Russia is merely the latest country to prove this.
The first big website to fall victim to Internet censorship? LiveJournal. Wikipedia describes LiveJournal with the following:
LiveJournal (LJ), or Zhivoy Zhurnal (Живой Журнал) / ZheZhe (ЖЖ) in Russia is a social network owned by SUP Media where Internet users can keep a blog, journal or diary – a wide variety of political pundits also use the service for political commentary, particularly in Russia, where it partners with the politically independent online newspaper Gazeta.ru (also owned by parent company SUP Media). As with many other social networks, a wide variety of public figures use the network. However, LiveJournal is also the name of the free and open source server software that was designed to run the LiveJournal virtual community.
Regardless what the site is, it is now no more for Russian’s. The DailyDot reports:
On July 18, local law enforcement informed a Yaroslavl court about pat-index, a neo-Nazi blog it had found on LiveJournal during a sweep. The blog’s hateful message violates Russian federal laws against extremism. Because of Bill 89417-6, the court now has the power to stamp it out completely and immediately.
The court ordered Internet provider Netis Telekom to block, among other illegal sites, this blog’s IP. The court order shows the IP to be blocked as 184.108.40.206.
However, LiveJournal blogs don’t have unique IP addresses. That IP belongs to all of LiveJournal Russia, effectively blacking out LiveJournal for everyone in Yaroslavl (a city of nearly 600,000) and all the surrounding areas to which Netis Telekom provides service.
Service was restored sometime after July 20, but it is unclear as to how or why. According to Tom Byron, a spokesperson for LiveJournal U.S., the U.S. office was not notified. (The Daily Dot is so far unable to contact the Moscow office, since it is after hours.)
While it was confirmed that the Internet censorship legislation and the blocking of LiveJournal were related, the censorship only took place in a small area for a short period of time. It could have been a whole lot worse, but it does raise serious questions about the effectiveness of simply censoring by IP address. The Internet is much more complicated than simply one person being associated with an IP address. An IP address can point to a website owned by one person. An IP address can point to an entire community of people. Blocking by IP address to take out one individual is like using a sledge hammer to kill a fly in a glass house. Sure, you might eventually kill the fly, but not before destroying a portion of your property in the process.