Results of press breakfast with Safe Internet League CEO Denis Davydov


A Safe Internet League’s traditional press breakfast took place on December 2 at the Bosco bar. During the event the League’s CEO Denis Davydov discussed the latest initiatives in Internet regulation in Russia and its organisation’s efforts in that sphere.

Pre-filtering can be done by whitelisting

The Safe Internet League put its weight behind the idea of ISP-level filtering, first announced earlier this year by Yelena Mizulina MP. ‘There is a whole stratum of information that can harm the child, yet is nevertheless present online. Parental control filters alone cannot solve the problem because only 5% of Russian parents use them. Increasing media literacy might take decades, but no-one would want to have whole ‘lost generations’ that grew up in the unsafe environment. This is why the Safe Internet League argues for a technical solution that would provide filtering at service provider level,’ explained the organisation’s CEO Denis Davydov.

One of the solutions on offer was to introduce ISP-level content pre-filtering systems that could automatically assess a requested web page’s content in real time and block illegal materials. ‘League experts went on to further flesh out the technical argument for pre-filtering, and brought an alternative solution for your consideration: pre-filtering by whitelists. Such a list would include only the certified websites known to host materials that are legal under Russian laws. One can use the whitelist compiled by the Safe Internet League as a starting point. This approach to ensuring Internet safety at service provider level will not require substantial expenditure,’ said Mr Davydov.

‘To achieve digital sovereignty Russia must join forces with other BRIC countries’

‘ICANN, the international non-profit organisation managing all domain names and IP addresses on the Internet – in effect, the global address space regulator – still reports to the US government. The process of its gaining independence has stalled. Should one wish to cut Russia off fr om the global Internet, it would be rather easy to achieve at both ICANN and traffic node level. That is why the matter of achieving digital sovereignty is one the most pressing issues of the day. How long it will take us to achieve largely depends on our cooperation with our partners among the G20 and BRIK nations. In fact, the hierarchy of global Internet regulation ought to have three tiers. The foundation – infrastructure and technical issues, standards – should be ITU territory; the middle section – address space – should be the domain of ICANN or any other international organisation to replace it; and the top – matters of online content – should be regulated by national legislation,’ explained Mr Davydov.

‘Search engines value profits over compliance with Russian laws’

‘Search engine is a business. Commercial interests prevail over security, customer care, or even stator compliance, Russian laws included. As an illustration, take abortion ads we found on both Google and Yandex. If one search engine stops showing them, the users will simply flock to its rival. That is why we have major search engines displaying types of ads that are illegal. Level the playing field for all search engines, make them all equally comply with legal requirements, and the problem will be gone. This is what we’re trying to achieve,’ said Denis Davydov.

The Safe Internet League had previously filed a complaint with the Prosecutor General’s Office against Google and Yandex for dissemination of contextual ads for abortion services. Recently, an official reply came back saying the Prosecutor General’s Office prioritised the issue and ‘to expedite the legal response to the complaint in question forwarded it to the Moscow Attorney’s Office for immediate investigation and, given sufficient grounds, legal action.’ ‘This makes up hopeful that the investigation we helped initiate will yield proper results. An Internet search engine is not just a machine for finding information. It is a mediator of sorts, and, if a search engine offers illegal harmful content, it is helping to disseminate it. It’s time the companies behind them realise that and review their policies with regards to providing information prohibited in Russia. Otherwise the authorities will have to consider restrictive measures and policy changes that would stop this from happening,’ explained Mr Davydov.

‘Blocking websites selling sex is extremely slow going’

A list of 96 of the most popular Russian websites hosting sex ads, which the Safe Internet League had taken to court for the materials to be judged illegal and the sites put on the official Russian Internet Blacklist, has been compiled by the organisation. So far, only 10 of these URLs (and their mirrors websites), the more popular ones (up to 700 000 users), have been blacklisted. ‘But the process is extremely slow in moving forward, so we would like the Interior Ministry to once again look into this issue. In Russia, all aspects of prostitution are illegal: recruiting into prostitution is a criminal offence, prostitution itself is a civil offence. Advertising prostitutes’ services is likewise illegal. That means, websites hosting information about such services or encouraging their use are blatantly in breach of Russian laws,’ stated Mr Davydov.

‘Schools must have an Internet of their own’

‘Analysing the issue of schoolchildren getting on the Internet, we came to the conclusion that schools should not offer Web access at all. That is, kids should not be getting on social networks, browsing entertainment websites, using search engines, etc. Schoolchildren would spend most of their time on search engines, digging for the information they require. They should instead be provided with a specialised educational portal or a unified education network that could offer all the information needed for school purposes. That is, schools should form an Internet of their own that would offer only the kind of materials useful in classrooms. We’re planning to pitch this idea to the Education Ministry and hope they like it,’ announced Denis Davydov.

League’s hosting service to welcome LPR schools

Schools from the breakaway Lugansk People’s Republic are to get free web hosting courtesy of the Safe Internet League. The safe ad-free hosting and website construction service developed by League specialists for Russian schools free of charge had already seen some 1 500 applications from institutions across country.

‘We have also received applications from schools in the Lugansk People’s Republic who wished to make use of our service. It is important that even in the extremely difficult times they are going through local schools continue to function,’ noted Denis Davydov.

Cyberguards: a real force or a bunch of geeks?

‘The Cyberguard volunteers are geeks that are representing a real force,’ said Mr Davydov.

According to Interior Ministry’s figures, the first six months of 2014 saw 540 cases wh ere it pressed charges of distributing child pornography online, 190 of which were brought to its attention by members of the Cyberguard.