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Russian Censors Threaten to Shut Down Business Website for Writing About Bitcoin


Scrooge McDuck, lover of coins, would never have let this happen. Image edited by Kevin Rothrock.

Picture a book that has pages added to it almost every day, though the plot never seems to change. You might as well be reading the story of Russian censorship, which got another update today, when the Kremlin's media watchdog, Roskomnadzor, threatened to block another news website. Officials today told Zuckerberg Pozvonit, or “Zuckerberg Calling,” which focuses on news related to Internet entrepreneurialism, that it must delete or edit within the next three days an article it published about bitcoins. If the website refuses, Roskomnadzor will block it.

The suddenly controversial article, titled “What Are Bitcoins and Who Needs Them?” (available here and archived here), was published more than two years ago in April 2013.

Roskomnadzor's warning is a response to a February 2015 court decision in Astrakhan, which determined that Zuckerberg Pozvonit‘s article contains “the propaganda of tax crimes in the area of legalizing [money laundering] income obtained in a criminal way” and “has a negative impact on the legal consciousness of citizens.”

Roskomnadzor actually resisted enforcing the court order at first, appealing to the court for clarification, arguing that the article in question was merely informational. “The court's decision contains no ambiguity,” the court answered in July. (Copies of both Roskomnadzor's appeal and the court's response are avaialble on Zuckerberg Pozvonit‘s website.)

Vyacheslav Tsyplukhin, who publishes Zuckerberg Pozvonit, stated on Facebook that, according to its editorial policy, ZP media intentionally avoids any political issues. Given this, Tsyplukhin says he is surprised by the court's decision:

Мы ещё не обсуждали этот вопрос коллективно, но я буду отстаивать позицию, что мы не должны ничего удалять. Пускай закрывают сайт, а потом объяснят 1,8 млн читателям и всей отрасли, что происходит.

We haven't discussed this issue collectively yet, but I maintain the position that we don't have to delete anything. Let them close the website, and then let them explain to our 1.8 million readers, and to the industry, what is going on.

Ironically, two weeks ago, during his visit to a youth summer forum, Vladimir Putin signaled his tacit support for using bitcoins in Russia, stating clearly that the crypto-currency shouldn't be banned. “One can use them,” he told the crowd. “They're spreading to ever more places, these days.”

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