Russian Man Who Tried to Burn Down Offices of Internet Regulator Reportedly Gets Probation

The logo of encrypted messaging app Telegram, one of the services targeted by Russian internet regulator Roskomnadzor.
Photo: Alexander Zemlianichenko (AP)

Earlier this month, a court in Russia’s Ulyanovsk Region sentenced a man to one and a half years’ probation after he reportedly tried not one, not two, but three times to burn down the regional offices of national internet regulator Roskomnadzor, with Interfax reporting (via TorrentFreak) that one local said he had done so to seek revenge over blocking of piracy sites.

Russian language sources named the man as 20-year-old Pavel Kopylov and reported that he tried to burn down the Ulyanovsk offices of Roskomnadzor after it blocked torrent trackers and encrypted messaging service Telegram. Interfax wrote that the three alleged arson attempts occurred in April and May 2018, which roughly matches up with Roskomnadzor’s incompetent attempts to enforce a court order banning Telegram by blocking broad swathes of IP addresses, resulting in widespread collateral damage to the Russian internet and widespread service outages. (The agency reportedly later tried alternate, more precise methods of targeting Telegram such as deep packet inspection to little avail.)

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Interfax wrote:

The regional prosecutor’s office reports that [the defendent] was found guilty of attempted destruction of someone else’s property, which entailed significant damage and committed through arson, and was sentenced to 1.5 years probation. The prosecutor’s office insisted on a real term—two years in a colony settlement.

As reported, in April and May of last year, a man three times at night broke windows in the office building, threw a bottle of fuel inside and set fire to it. The damage from his actions amounted to about 10 million rubles.

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Interfax cited the motive in the crime as retaliation for Roskomnadzor blocking “an Internet resource that provided an illegal opportunity to freely use” pirated “video content.”

According to TechDirt, Russian authorities have repeatedly tried to crack down on internet piracy with broad site-blocking measures—with research by Russian anti-piracy firm WebKontrol indicating that the number of pirate sites actually grew as a result as the administrators quickly set up mirrors.

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“The overall traffic of pirate sites is decreasing notwithstanding the fact that the number of such sites is growing rapidly,” WebKontrol CEO Olga Valigourskaia told TorrentFreak. “Presumably, the main reason for this is the newly created mirror sites.”

“Administrators of the pirate resources tend to create mirror sites as quickly as possible after their original domains are blocked,” Valigourskaia added. “Rights holders, on the other hand, instantly block these mirrors using an administrative procedure, so there is no chance for these sites to gain any significant traffic. Some pirates simply stop creating new mirrors after a few blocking procedures.”

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However, Roskomnadzor has continued to invest in site-blocking technology and said has reduced the amount of time it needs to have Russian telecoms block access to prohibited content, TorrentFreak wrote. Earlier this year, Russian authorities planned a test of whether the country’s internet could effectively be disconnected from the rest of the world. In June 2019, Roskomnadzor began implementing a plan to force providers of virtual private networks (VPNs), which allow users to dodge content restrictions by directing their traffic through foreign servers, to connect their services to government-run censorship systems or be blocked within Russia.

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Tom McKay

"... An upperclassman who had been researching terrorist groups online." - Washington Post