Everyone knows that Russia has a love-hate relationship with cryptos and blockchain. While the country promotes the use of blockchain to enhance its economic model, the situation is entirely different when it comes to Bitcoin and the rest of the altcoins. The discouragement of their use has even gone so far as to shut down news portals and websites promoting crypto.
However, a decision taken by the Russian Supreme Court a several days ago ago could lay the groundwork for safer journalism without fear of banishment or legal reprisals.
2017 a Bad Year for Cryptos in Russia
2017 was the year of cryptos: An astronomical increase in the global market cap, as well as the improvement and diffusion of smart contracts, gave rise to many exciting altcoins and projects as well as industries related to the field of blockchain technologies. The information portals specialized in this area were one of the fastest growing sectors.
However, at the peak of the crypto booming, Russia became famous for its hardening of policies against virtual currencies. Perhaps one of the most controversial decisions was the one taken on May 19, 2017, by The Oktyabrsky District Court of St. Petersburg. They ordered the closure of 40 news portals for promoting the use of cryptocurrency, which, according to the Court, was in contravention of several legal provisions:
“Free distribution of information on e-currency causes the active use of cryptocurrency in the trade of drugs, weapons, counterfeit documents and other criminal activities. These facts (…) entail a violation of the rights and legitimate interests of an undefined circle persons who have access to it, which is the basis for the prosecutor’s application to the court in accordance with Part 1 of Art. 45 of the Civil Procedure Code of the Russian Federation.”
2018: A vindication year for freedom of information and cryptocurrency portals in Russia
Another of the affected websites was Bitcoininfo — a well-known portal on the country — which was also banned by the Vyborgsky District Court of St. Petersburg in another decision back in 2016.
However, while in 2018 the Municipal Court of St. Petersburg ordered the annulment of the decision to ban the 40 websites, the “Bitcoininfo” case was not resolved.
But the good news came out a few hours ago in Russia when Rapsi News published the Supreme Court’s decision to review the appeal of the Bitcoin website blocking.
The decision of the Supreme Court is of the utmost importance for the Russian crypto ecosystem: being the highest power in judicial matters, its rulings are binding and may even invalidate or definitively ratify any other decision taken by lower Courts.
It is also possible to use the Supreme Court’s statements as a basis for similar cases, potentially setting a precedent for any other news website that has been closed by the government.
In other words, the decisions of the St. Petersburg Court don’t influence other trials, but the Supreme Court’s decisions do have to be considered by other Courts deciding similar situations.
Should there be a decision in favor of Bitcoininfo, arbitrary resolutions directly attacking news websites focused on cryptocurrencies may come to an end. This would allow for a more “friendly” climate for those who wish to do journalism focused on this dynamic area.
Undoubtedly, good news for Russians, crypto enthusiast and all the freedom of information advocates around the world.
Cover Photo by Nikolay Vorobyev on Unsplash