In Russia, there are plenty of drugs; you’re just not allowed to talk about them. Internet censorship runs rife – except on the dark web. With RAMP, the Russian Anonymous Marketplace, still thriving, the underground community embraces drug culture away from prying eyes. RAMP is a forum-based dark web site.
Internet Censorship by region
Many regions around the world put various blocks on their internet access so that citizens can no longer access various domains. In Singapore, trying to access a porn site will likely result on you landing on a boring placeholder page saying the site you are trying to access is no allowed. In Indonesia, you can’t even access Reddit.
This form of internet censorship varies from geo-blocking, whereby the site locks you out based on where you live. For instance, you may have noticed this geo-blocking when you’ve tried to browse to a video site in the US if you live in Australia, for example.
Some countries are also a little more ruthless in their blocking of information. China is notorious for their internet censorship, banning citizens from accessing not only Google, but Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and even the New York Times – alongside many others. Other countries have varying degrees of censorship, and often the rules can ramp up and change swiftly, seemingly without rhyme or reason.
Censorship and Russia
Back in November 2012, Russia, reputably one of the world’s biggest hotspots for illegal trading, enacted their internet censorship bill that was based around protecting children from harmful information. This includes information related to child pornography, suicide, and drug use. Additions to the law were added at a later date to include references to extremism.
The law is enforced by the Roskomnadzor, or the Federal Service for Supervision of Communications, Information Technology and Mass Media. The agency has been ruthless in their blocks, with everything ranging from torrenting sites, to online gambling. The agency has even put temporary blocks on sites such as Wikipedia and Github. They are particularly judicious when it comes to things such as attempts to rally protests and anti-government chatter.
The drug website blockings in Russia
Swiftly after the first set of blocking, which involved the vast majority of .ru drug sites, they made moves to blocking other drug related sites hosted in other areas of the world. One such site that fell victim to the Roskomnadzor was Erowid, in February of 2013.
For those who aren’t familiar with Erowid, it is a not for profit organization set up to educate people about illicit and non-illicit drugs. The website contains a wealth of information from scientific papers and journalistic articles, to large scale survey results, to user experiences, and other sources. It is perhaps the most well-known and well respected large scale source of information on drugs that exists online.
The factual site provides a beacon of hope for people wanting to find real information regarding drugs amidst a sea of misinformation that exists outside it. As one Reddit user so cleverly put it “I use Erowid as a harm reduction site.” The site is extremely useful for people who do use drugs to use them more safely. In Russia, removing this site from the web may have actually made drug use more risky.
And the real irony of the situation (and where RAMP fits in)?
While the Roskomnadzor are busying themselves to ramp up blocking websites left, right, and center, the irony of the situation is that the dark web is flourishing in Russia with sites such as RAMP. Many sites developed in other nations around the world are choosing to obtain hosting in the country, because in Russia they steadfastly refused to release information to other countries or cooperate with worldwide investigations, and hosts ask for no identifying information.
RAMP (Russian Anonymous Marketplace)
The oldest existing dark web marketplace, RAMP, is growing daily, too. RAMP is a Russian language drug marketplace that allows for private interactions between buyer and seller. RAMP operates as a forum where people come to buy and sell drugs. And it’s getting bigger, too. Has anyone benefitted more from the swift exits of other dark web marketplaces more than RAMP? It’s a debatable topic. RAMP features many thousands of users and the RAMP site is popular all over Russia, particularly in the larger cities.
RAMP on the Dark Web
While the Roskomnadzor concentrate on the Clearnet, drug culture is thriving in Russia on the dark web, particularly on RAMP. If you are travelling to Russia at any point, there’s always the option to download Tor and jump on the dark web to circumvent the censorship laws. Grab a Russian speaking friend and have a browse on RAMP, too. You might be surprised with what you find on RAMP!