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Russia’s Media Watchdog Blocks 6 Crypto Websites

March 10, 2020

The Russian telecom regulator has blocked six websites that regularly post cryptocurrency content, including a news outlet.

Russia Continues Scrutiny against Crypto

The crypto space in Russia has been enduring tough times in recent years. While the sector remains largely unregulated in the country, regulatory agencies continue to make moves that affect the development of the cryptocurrency space in Russia.

Recently, the Russian telecom regulator, Roskomnadzor, blocked access to six cryptocurrency websites. One of the sites was the forum section of Bits.media, a popular cryptocurrency news outlet in the country.

Roskomnadzor, entirely referred to as the Federal Service for Supervision of Communications, Information Technology and Mass Media, made this move on March 5. The agency added five websites to its list of banned internet platforms. Roskomnadzor blocked access to alfatop.me, btcphone.ru, bitokk.com, nicechange.org, and prostocoin.com after a ruling by the Nyandomsky District Court located in Arkhangelsk Oblast delivered a day earlier.

The banned websites offer different services, including crypto exchanges, mobile top-ups with Bitcoin (BTC), and news outlets. Following the blocking of the sites, readers complained that they couldn’t gain access to the Bits.media forum. The news outlet told its readers that the forum section of the site was blacklisted in 2017 following a request by the Federal Tax Service (FTS). The FTS requested to ban the forum section on account of the dissemination of prohibited information in Russia. Back then, the tax agency was unhappy about an online casino thread on the site. The thread was re-opened a while later but was later deleted.

The founder of Bits.media, Ivan Tikhonov, commented on this latest development, urging people to stock up on VPNs and proxies. He stated that the Roskomnadzor had blocked the site again and encouraged people to quickly stock up on VPNs and proxies.

At the moment, Bits.media is negotiating with the Roskomnadzor. However, the problem runs deeper than that as some internet service providers (ISPs) have blocked the whole domain, not only the forum section of the site. Failure to quickly comply with the regulator’s directives would have seen the ISPs face sanctions from the authorities.

While a reversal of the ban is possible, it could take months before it happens, and no one would be blamed for such delays. Tikhonov posted a photo of the official reference to the blocking of Bits.media by the media watchdog. He claimed that the Roskomnadzor made the call to ban their platform without prior notice.

Roskomnadzor Targeting Crypto Websites Since 2015

This isn’t the first time Roskomnadzor banned cryptocurrency-related platforms. The agency has been targeting crypto platforms for the past five years now. In October last year, Roskomnadzor blocked two cryptocurrency websites, Coinspot and Cointelegraph.

The regulators have been making these decisions because of the 2014 report by the Central Bank of Russia (CBR), which tagged cryptocurrencies as dangerous. The CBR has been warning the public to steer clear of cryptocurrencies as the law prohibits the issuance and circulation of money by other entities within the Russian Federation.

Cryptocurrencies are yet to be regulated in Russia, making it a hard terrain for companies in the sector to provide services in the country. Furthermore, moves such as the blocking of crypto-related websites, would deter other crypto entities from coming to Russia with their businesses.