About That Time I Was Banned in Russia

I guess I must be pretty famous now, because Russia’s coming after me. Right up there with Pussy Riot and the gays, Russia has apparently decided I’m not good for their population, and sent me the following notice – via Twitter Legal – on Monday:

In accordance with No. 7 of Article 15.1. of the Federal Law dated 27.07.2006 No. 149-FZ “On Information, Information Technologies and Information Protection” we notify you that on the basis of a decision of Federal service on customers’ rights protection and human well-being surveillance dated 03.03.2020 No 105811 Internet web-site page (s) link (s) https://twitter.com/cmnorthauthor/header_photo was (were) included in the “Unified register of domain names, Internet web-site page links and network addresses enabling to identify the Internet web-sites containing the information prohibited for public distribution in the Russian Federation”, the number of the register entry is 917706-РИ due to the fact that this Internet web-site page (s) link (s) contains the information about suicide methods, death claims.

It is necessary to immediately inform the owner of the revealed Internet web-site about this fact, and to notify him of the need to remove the information prohibited for distribution in the Russian Federation immediately.

Federal Service for Supervision in the Sphere of Telecom, Information Technologies and Mass Communications

Not that it makes any difference, but let’s start at the beginning. The header image in question is from the actual cover of my book, 22 Scars. In essence, it depicts a female arm with a number of self-harm scars. The scars are well-healed, and certainly not from any kind of suicide attempt. The owner of the arm is clearly alive and well due to the fact that she is standing upright. The image is black and white, and, for what it shows, (I think) rather artistic.

It definitely doesn’t provide information about suicide methods or death claims. It’s a picture.

The notification – which is, by the way, in both Russian and English – goes on to say that if I don’t remove the offending content within 24 hours, Twitter will have to stop allowing access to my account within the Russian Federation. I wonder if they’ve done so by now.

I feel bad for my Russian fans (however many I may have), but I can’t help feeling this is just a little ridiculous. Does Russia really have nothing better to do than complain about potentially offensive content posted by authors that no one has ever even heard of? And of all the things to complain about, they chose to pick a photo of self-harm scars? I mean, there’s a lot of f***ed-up shit on the internet, and I don’t really think my book cover takes the cake, so to speak.

What really gets me is that, unless the Federal Service for Supervision in the Sphere of Telecom, Information Technologies and Mass Communications (FSSSTITMC for short, because it isn’t already a mouthful) has some kind of autobot specifically looking out for images of scars, this means that some actual person in Russia – presumably in the employment of the FSSSTITMC – must have come across my Twitter account, decided it violated their laws, and then actually sent what amounts to a cease-and-desist letter to Twitter.

Don’t they have bigger problems to worry about right now?

In any case, at the risk of alienating my Russian audience (such as it might be), I don’t feel particularly compelled to change my Twitter header image, since it directly represents the cover of my first book. Art is art, so they say, and this basically amounts to censorship, which I’m not a big fan of.

Of course, as work progresses on my second novel, The Broken, I might end up changing the cover image to reflect my new book, and that of course would have nothing to do with the Russian Federation trying to bully a two-bit nobody author into complying with their outdated and archaic laws.

Sorry-not-sorry, Putin.

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