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American neo-Nazi website lasts less than a day on new .RU domain thanks to Russia's Internet censor

11:14, 17 august 2017

Sean Rayford / Getty Images / AFP / Scanpix / LETA

The American neo-Nazi website The Daily Stormer lasted less than a day on its new .RU domain. Hours after the website went online, the Russian registrar Ru-Center unregistered the domain after receiving a “recommendation” from Roskomnadzor, Russia’s federal censor. Relocated to the .RU domain, The Daily Stormer was only accessible for a few hours.

The Russian government took The Daily Stormer offline with a “recommendation.” A representative for the media holding company RBC, which owns Ru-Center, told the website TJournal that the registrar received a letter from Roskomnadzor on the evening of August 16, where regulators asked the company to unregister The Daily Stormer’s .RU domain, effectively blocking access to the website at this URL.

“Ru-Center [originally] registered the domain in an automatic process. We do tens of thousands of these registrations every day,” RBC’s Yegor Timofeyev told TJournal. He says the letter from Roskomnadzor “asked” them to “consider the possibility of deregistering the domain due to the fact that the website disseminates extremist content.” Ru-Center then agreed to act on the censor’s recommendation.

Roskomnadzor side-stepped Russia’s usual censorship procedures to take action against The Daily Stormer. In Russia, anti-extremism efforts are the Attorney General’s purview, and Roskomnadzor is merely charged with enforcing the Attorney General’s orders to block websites it has identified as extremist. Speaking to TJournal on August 16, Roskomnadzor’s press secretary, Vadim Ampelonsky, revealed that his office had received no orders from the Attorney General regarding The Daily Stormer.

Roskomnadzor also didn’t have a formal decision from the Coordination Center for the Top Level Domain RU, which has the authority to take measures against websites that host illegal content, though Roskomnadzor is itself considered by the Coordination Center to be a “competent organization” capable of identifying such websites.

In its letter to Ru-Center, Russia’s censor directly accused The Daily Stormer of spreading extremism, but it didn’t legally order the registrar to drop the website. After reading Roskomnadzor’s recommendation, Ru-Center technically made this decision on its own.

“Russian legislation has established extremely strict measures against online extremism,” Ampelonsky told TJournal. “The website The Daily Stormer propagates neo-Nazi ideology, incites racial, ethnic, and other forms of social unrest.”’

Russian Internet authorities followed in the footsteps of American companies that recently dropped The Daily Stormer as a client. Until recently, The Daily Stormer relied on the Internet hosting service GoDaddy. Following last weekend’s violence by far-right groups Charlottesville, however, GoDaddy booted the neo-Nazi website from its domain.

GoDaddy’s actions were a response to an article by the website’s founder, Andrew Anglin, who insulted the 32-year-old woman who died in a vehicular attack on Charlottesville counter-protesters, Heather Heyer. Anglin called her a “drain on society” because she was unmarried and childless. Heyer was killed when a far-right activist intentionally ploughed into a her group with his car.