16 January 2018, Tuesday, 16:43

Russia can block any website for Belarusians


Belarusian Internet service providers (ISP) can become hostages of “forgetfulness” of their Russian colleagues.

Our readers complained some days ago that the Belarusian ISP Byfly (Beltelecom's trademark) blocked access to scores of Ukrainian websites. Instead of Ukrainian sites, Belarusians saw a page with the notice “Access was restricted on a court decision or other grounds in compliance with the legislation of the Russian Federation”.

Belarusian users say the problem was solved.

“We had this problem. It was solved yesterday at around 15:00,” a representative of Beltelecom told charter97.org.

The press service of the Belarusian national telecom operator declined to comment on the blocking in details, so charter97.org talked to independent experts. A representative of a Belarusian ISP agreed to give comments on condition of anonymity.

– What were the grounds for blocking Ukrainian websites with a reference to the legislation of Russia?

– I cannot say anything about this particular case, but we saw similar things. In particular, we faced the blocking by Rostelecom and Russian ISP that exchange traffic with Beltelecom. Yes, some sites did not comply with the Russian legislation, so they blocked them. But they did not control that the traffic went to Belarus, so the websites were blocked for other countries, too.

– Can you explain the thing with Belarusian traffic and Russia in details?

– Beltelecom and all our backbone providers, which we have three, have the main data lines. Most of the traffic goes to Russia, because it is the most available and the cheapest way. Of course, there's a channel to Europe, for example to Frankfurt. But most of the Internet traffic goes to Russia, because Russian-language sites are hosted there.

– What can be done, if anything, to avoid the blocking? Why do the Belarusian ISP do nothing? Is this difficult?

– There's nothing difficult. But Belarusian ISPs do not block anything. If something is blocked, it is done by Russia. It means that Russia turned on a filter for some sites and forgot to turn off the filtering in our direction. We cannot do anything here. We cannot control forgetfulness of every Russian resource.

– So, it depends on Russia what sites we can visit and what not, doesn't it?

– When we had this problem, yes, we depended on Russia. They didn't care that their legislation prohibits some sites, but doesn't work in our country. We had talks. Sites were not working for a time, but they later turned them on for us.

– Does it mean that you have to call and ask to turn on access to a website in every particular case? Can they refuse to do so?

– Backbone ISPs can do it, but we cannot. We call our backbone ISPs. If the restrictions were not imposed by them, they contact their Russian partners. We don't know their policy on such issues.

– May it happen so that if Beltelecom does not like the sites, which were already blocked by Russia, Belarusian users won't see them?

– I cannot say. I don't know Beltelecom's policy. But if our client wants to block a website for him, we can do it. The site will be available for other users unless we have requests to block it. The situation in Russia is difficult: a site can be classified as a resource promoting pornography, terrorism and so on on a request of any angry user. The website can be blocked. There's a different procedure in Russia.