- By Elizabeth F. RalphElizabeth Ralph is a researcher at Foreign Policy.
Access to Russia’s leading social network — VKontakte — was briefly blocked on Friday, after the website appeared on a list of sites banned from distributing content inside the country.
Apparently, Vkontakte (Russia’s version of Facebook) ended up on the list after an official working for Russia’s communications regulator accidentally "checked a box" next to the website’s name. And while the Internet regulator lifted the ban hours later, that hasn’t tamped down skepticism about the "mistake" really being unintentional.
The Wall Street Journal, for instance, mentions that the Internet blacklist "usually used to ban websites that propagate child pornography, drug use and suicide" has "often found itself ‘by mistake’ banning the websites of Internet and technology giants such as Google, Yandex and Wikipedia among others."
And Reuters highlights the troubled relationship VKontakte’s founder has with the government, reporting that "Pavel Durov has clashed with the authorities in the past for providing a forum for opposition activists to organize protests against Putin." More specifically, "Durov refused to comply with an order by the Federal Security Service, a successor to the Soviet-era KGB, to close groups used by activists to organize protests over the December 2011 parliamentary election, which handed victory to Putin’s ruling United Russia party."
Whether the mistake was intentional or not, does anyone else find it unsettling that banning a website is as easy as checking off a box?