Czech Internet association finally blocks servers spreading disinformation about COVID-19, refugees and Roma - their pro-Kremlin disinformation was a step too far
They used to incite Czech Internet users against Romani people, then against refugees, and then they published disinformation about COVID-19, but the straw that broke the camel's back was the pro-Kremlin disinformation they have begun disseminating this week, and the CZ.NIC domestic Internet association, after consultations with the state security forces and on the basis of a Czech Government recommendation, has now blocked eight such disinformation websites. All posed a threat to Czech national security in the context of Russia's ramped-up invasion of Ukraine.
The association, which runs the register of domains with the Czech national suffix .cz, announced the move in a press release. Czech Government officials have declined to comment.
The websites blocked are: Aeronet.cz, Protiproud.cz, Ceskobezcenzury.cz, Voxpopuliblog.cz, Prvnizpravy.cz, Czechfreepress.cz, Exanpro.cz and Skrytapravda.cz. According to CZ.NIC Executive Director Ondřej Filip, this absolutely extraordinary step has been taken in response to the military attack by the Russian Army against the sovereign country of Ukraine and the disinformation campaign that accompanied and still accompanies the ongoing invasion.
"We're in a disinformation war, but I won't reveal the strategy we're taking," Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala (ODS) said during a press conference held after an extraordinary cabinet session in response to a general question about measures against disinformation. According to the PM, the Government is taking a number of parallel steps to defend against various types of attacks and disinformation campaigns.
According to Czech Interior Minister Vít Rakušan (Mayors and Independents - STAN), the current steps are unrelated to the material that was discussed by the Government at the recent cabinet session. He declined to comment further, citing the desire to protect the effectiveness of the measures to combat misinformation.
CZ.NIC director Filip said that: "The aggression of the Russian Federation against Ukraine has long been accompanied by a disinformation campaign through a number of Internet media outlets that use the Czech national domain. Because this information is purposefully not based on the truth and demonstrably encourages the spread of fabricated rumors, messages and instability in society, we decided to block these significant disinformation Internet media in consultation with the highest state officials."
According to the technical principles of the Domain Name System (DNS) protocol, the association's representatives say it may take some time for the websites in the individual networks to be rendered unavailable. The biggest Czech-language internet search engine, Seznam.cz, has been identifying the disinformation websites for some time now by announcing that they distribute conspiracy-theory or dubious content when people access them.
Most of the websites that were blocked yesterday had previously published misinformation about Romani people, then switched their focus to refugees in 2015, and then moved on to COVID-19. For example, the Aeronet.cz server republished an article from the Rukojmi.cz server casting doubt on and downplaying the atrocities that took place in the former WWII-era concentration camp for Roma at Lety u Písku.
The author of the article was eventually sentenced in 2020 to six months' imprisonment for denying the Holocaust, suspended for a probationary period of 12 months. That article was still available on Aeronet.cz until yesterday.
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