Russia’s ‘Gay Propaganda Ban’ Has Censored the Country’s Most Vital Queer Websites
On Friday, the Federal Service for Supervision of Communications, Information Technology and Mass Media in Russia (Roskomnadzor) blocked Gay.ru and Lesbi.ru, two of Russia’s oldest LGBTQ websites, for violating the country’s law against so-called “gay propaganda.” The site’s inclusion on the country’s Unified Register of Prohibited Sites is only the latest instance of anti-LGBTQ censorship by the Russian government under this law.
Despite the fact that Gay.ru has been online since 1997 and its front page warns visitors that its content is only intended for users over 18, Gay.ru employee Ed Mishin says the government notified the site it would be blacklisted within Russia because “any person from the internet, even a child, can read it” and because the site contains “information that spreads propaganda of non-traditional sexual practices, and its dissemination in Russia is prohibited.”
Gay.ru reportedly receives 1.5 million visitors per month. Its content mostly consists of breaking LGBTQ news from Russia and around the globe. Nonetheless, Roskomnadzor’s notice states the information on the website “has a negative impact on the moral, spiritual, mental and physical development, health, life of minors.”
In March 2018, Gay.ru reported that “homopropaganda” is the violation most cited for website blacklisting by the Roskomnadzor. Its censorship will surely negatively impact Gay.ru‘s viewership and longevity.
Since Russian President Vladimir Putin signed the country’s gay propaganda law in June 2013, it has been used to censor and prosecute various LGBTQ groups. In 2013, courts in two Russian cities fined three LGBT activists for holding signs supporting LGBTQ rights in public.
In January 2014, Russian authorities reportedly filed charges against the head of Children 404, the Russian version of the “It Gets Better” project. In April 2014, St. Petersburg police disrupted a showing of a gay teen documentary at a local film festival associated with Children 404. In the same year, a Russian newspaper was fined $1,400 for reporting on the firing of a gay teacher.
Human Rights Watch says it has documented seven cases in six Russian regions in which LGBT educators were either fired or forced to resign “following complaints that they could spread ‘propaganda’ of non-heterosexual orientation to children.”