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Russia's Censorship Spree Is Now Targeting Porn

Busy time for Russian censors.

by Lorenzo Franceschi-Bicchierai
Sep 8 2015, 4:18pm

Image: Pressmaster/Shutterstock

Russia's war against some of the internet's most beloved websites continues. Just a few weeks after briefly banning Reddit and Wikipedia, it's now the turn of PornHub, one of the most popular adult websites in the world.

The Russian internet regulator, Roskomnadzor, announced the ban of 11 porn websites on Monday, following a July decision by a local court in Krasnodar, a city close to the Black Sea.

"The illegal manufacture, distribution and public display of pornography is a crime," Roskomnadzor wrote in a Russian press release, translated via Google Translate, citing an article in the Russian criminal code.

"The illegal manufacture, distribution and public display of pornography is a crime."

The Russian version of PornHub (PornHub.ru) was reportedly among the banned sites, although the agency's press release doesn't mention it by name. The Moscow Times reported on Tuesday that it was already unavailable in Russia, with the site displaying a message saying it was blocked for containing illegal material. (It's unclear if the ban is already effective all over Russia, as a block like this needs to be carried out by several internet providers.)

The Roskomnadzor did not respond to a request for comment. A spokesperson for PornHub confirmed that the site was blacklisted in Russia.

"We are currently investigating and considering available means to reinstate our website in Russia," PornHub's spokesperson said.

Earlier this year, the Roskomnadzor already banned 136 porn websites, citing century-old international agreements.

Russia is infamous for its censorship-heavy approach, not just on the internet but in every kind of media. Last year, President Vladimir Putin signed a law that prohibited cursing in music, books and movies.

The ban on PornHub and other adult websites is just the latest in a long string of recent high-profile censorship incidents in Russia. It follows brief blocks of Reddit and Wikipedia, both motivated in part by the fact that the two sites are now encrypted by default, which makes it impossible for countries like Russia or China to censor specific pages without blocking the whole site.

In late August, Russian censors banned the music site Last.fm because it was hosting the song "Kill a Cop." Just last week, the government also banned the Internet Archive, which allows users to visit older versions of websites.

This story has been updated to add PornHub's comment.