Introduction of internet-related Russia trade sanctions in the UK
On April 29, 2022, the UK introduced new measures to prevent the provision of internet services to or for the benefit of designated persons. These measures apply to the whole territory of the UK and to conduct by UK persons where that conduct is wholly or partly outside the UK. The designated entities or individuals (“Designated Persons”) can be found on the regularly updated UK Sanctions List with the tag “Internet Sanctions List”. To date, only V-Novosti and Rossiya Segodnya are designated under those authorities.
The new regulations require:
Social media services, including video-sharing platforms, to take reasonable steps to prevent content that is generated, uploaded or shared by a designated person that a UK-based user will encounter;
Internet access services, including fixed and wireless broadband providers, to take reasonable steps to prevent UK-based users from accessing websites provided by a designated person; and
App stores to take reasonable steps to prevent UK-based users from downloading or otherwise accessing a service provided by a designated person.
No precisions were given on which “reasonable steps” social media and application stores should take. Consequently, each company providing internet services will have to assess what preventive steps it has to take to comply with these internet services sanctions. As for internet services, it could be URL blocking as indicated in the Explanatory Memorandum.
Further, these regulations authorize the UK Office of Communication (Ofcom) to impose civil monetary penalties on those who fail to comply with the regulations. Ofcom may also request information and documents for the purpose of monitoring compliance. Failure to comply is also a criminal offense.
For further information, Ofcom released an Open Letter to industry summarizing the application of these new restrictions for companies to comply with them. It also recommends companies to check its Enforcement Guidelines for Regulatory Investigations to understand how Ofcom takes enforcement actions.
 Defined, under section 43(3) of the Finance Act 2020, as “an online service that meets the following conditions:
(a) the main purpose, or one of the main purposes, of the service is to promote interaction between users (including interaction between users and user-generated content), and
(b) making content generated by users available to other users is a significant feature of the service.”