Surge in pro-suicide and illegal drugs content complaints in 2016


A review of Safe Internet League’s dangerous content hotlines’ statistics for the first six months of 2016 has revealed a sharp increase in the number of users reporting pro-suicide materials online.

The hotlines project, offering Internet users a place to report illegal online content, was launched in 2013 by the Safe Internet League as part of its official website. To flag up an illegal material a user can click the red ‘Report abuse’ button, located at its main page, and lodge a complaint in a corresponding section. The complaints are then analysed by the League’s specialists (linguists, psychologists, psychiatrists, criminalists, etc.). Owners of websites confirmed to contain illegal materials are recommended to voluntarily remove them. If not, the report is then forwarded to the law enforcement agencies or Roskomnadzor for it to put the offending website on the official Russian Internet blacklist.

‘This year we are seeing a sharp increase in the number of reports of pro-suicide web pages. Especially noteworthy is the sizable disparity between the total number of complaints and the number of pages our experts actually found to feature dangerous content. Which in most instances was not found to be the case.

What this means is that this is a really hot issue in our society. This is, in part, due to a large number of publications and newspaper investigations on this subject published since the beginning of 2016. In this case, vigilance certainly did pay off’ noted Head of Safe Internet League Denis Davydov. Specifically, the first six months of 2016 saw almost 5 400 reports of encouragement to suicide submitted through Safe Internet League’s hotlines, with just 1 500 URLs confirmed by experts to contain illegal content (which in 1 300 cases was removed voluntarily). Compare this with the same period of 2015 where the League received 2 000 reports with 800 confirmed cases.

‘The majority of reports submitted through our hotlines still deal with child pornography. Note, however, that the figures got noticeably lower. In essence, we could say that the Russian-language Internet sector is gradually getting free of this type of illegal content. For this we should thank both the watchdog agency (in this case, Roskomnadzor) and members of the public volunteering to help us detect these kinds of websites’ said Mr Davydov. Specifically, the first six months of 2016 saw around 8 500 reports of child pornography. In 3 780 cases the experts confirmed these web pages did contain illegal material. Most of it was removed voluntarily. The same period of 2015 saw around 26 300 complaints, with 10 000 cases confirmed.

Safe Internet League experts also noticed an increase in the number of reports of web pages promoting and selling illegal drugs. The first six months of 2016 saw 3 700 reports of such web pages submitted through Safe Internet League’s hotlines, with 2 400 URLs confirmed by experts to contain illegal content (which in 2 260 cases was removed voluntarily). By comparison, the same period of 2015 saw 2 200 complaints of such illegal content, with 1 450 confirmed cases.