Russia blocks web pages linked to Ukrainian protest

Analyst says blocking 13 web sites will do little to slow unrest while hurting Russia's image

Russia has moved to block citizens from accessing online information about the Ukrainian political movement that ousted the country's pro-Russian president last week.

However, said one analyst, only 13 web sites - a tiny smattering of outlets with information on the movement - have been blocked..

"Yeah, 13 will take care of it," said Dan Olds, an analyst at Gabriel Consulting Group sarcastically. "No problem now."

On Monday, Roskomnadzor, the Russian agency that monitors communications, media and information technology, issued an online statement that Russia's prosecutor general instructed it to restrict access to 13 web sites.

The blocked sites, said the agency, which were not specified, are making direct appeals to Russians to "carry out terrorist activities" and "participate in unsanctioned public events."

The agency also said it will block any copies of the web pages.

Broad political and civil unrest in Ukraine have led to the collapse of the Kremlin-backed government, hampering Russian President Vladimir Putin's strategy to deepen political and economic ties with Ukraine.

Now Russia is becoming increasingly embroiled in Ukraine's worsening troubles as its ethnic Russians call on Putin to step in.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Sunday warned Russia not to intervene in Ukraine's unrest, calling Russia's moves "an act of aggression."

Olds was quick to note that he sees no positive outcome the blocking the web sites, especially such a small number.

"If Russia thinks that shutting down 13 websites covering the Ukraine situation is going to do anything to stop the flow of information, they're dead wrong," he said. "This might have worked in the late 1990's or early 2000's, but not now. The biggest effect is to make them look like they're trying to hide something -- like the truth -- from their citizens."

Russia's move isn't unprecedented.

In 2012, Google sites were blocked in China just before the start of China's 18th Communist Party Congress, and Internet and mobile communications were shut down in war-torn Syria.

Sharon Gaudin covers the Internet and Web 2.0, emerging technologies, and desktop and laptop chips for Computerworld. Follow Sharon on Twitter at @sgaudin, or subscribe to Sharon's RSS feed . Her email address is sgaudin@computerworld.com.

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This story, "Russia blocks web pages linked to Ukrainian protest" was originally published by Computerworld.

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