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Self-Proclaimed ‘Donetsk People's Republic’ Now Has an Internet Blacklist

Most of the websites on the blacklist are those of Ukrainian media. Images mixed by Tetyana Lokot.

Most of the websites on the blacklist are those of Ukrainian media. Images mixed by Tetyana Lokot.

Internet blacklists are a common occurrence in countries like Russia and Belarus, and now officials of the self-proclaimed “Donetsk People's Republic” in the Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine have decided to join the club. Their newly-minted blacklist consists mostly of Ukrainian news websites which “DPR” authorities believe to contain “information banned in the republic.”

On May 30 the “members of parliament” of the unrecognized separatist state unanimously voted to pass a new law “On information and information technologies.” Among other things, the law introduces a “unified registry of domain names, URLs and network addresses on the Internet, which allow to identify websites containing information that is banned for dissemination in the DPR,” according to a Zerkalo Nedeli report. The authors of the “blacklist” law say its main purpose is to “help regulate the use of information technologies and provide for information security.”

Ukrainian social media users immediately noted the similarity of the new legislation to existing Internet regulation in Russia.

Here we go. They're studying Russian best practices.

Although the “blacklist” law did not specify specific URLs that were considered for the block-list, on June 11 the website of the local cable TV company in Donetsk published a list of Internet addresses it reported were currently blocked at the request of the “Ministry of Information and Communication of the DPR.” The list includes websites of almost 40 Ukrainian national and local media outlets, including Hromadske TV, 24 TV Channel, Segodnya, and Radio Liberty.

It is unclear whether the list published by the cable company is the “unified registry” mentioned in the text of the law. The “Ministry” itself, when contacted by RFE/RL, denied knowledge of the blacklist or its contents, and the “Minister of Information” told reporters that she herself “had access to Radio Liberty website.” However, users trying to access the some of the websites from the list inside “DPR”-controlled territory report that they are indeed unavailable, according to RFE/RL.

The Russian-supported separatist authorities in eastern Ukraine have tried to block Ukrainian websites before: in September 2014, local ISPs in Donetsk received letters from self-proclaimed “DPR officials” demanding they block 27 Ukrainian news websites “to prevent the distribution of inherently false information and libel.” At least some of the ISPs complied with the demand then, as local Internet users reported being unable to access some of the pages listed in the letter.

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