The supervisory authority appealed to the Volzhsky District Court of Saratov on March 31 last year, asking to block the page bits.media/exchanger. This is an information catalog that displays information about bitcoin and altcoin exchange services from public sources.. The local prosecutor considered the catalog “information aimed at promoting crimes in the field of legalization (laundering) of proceeds from crime”. The court accepted the claim and granted the request as soon as possible.. On April 28, Judge Alla Danilenko decided to start blocking. On June 30, the entire Bits.media website was no longer available to users of most Russian providers.
The judge considered the case alone, without the presence of the owners of the blocked Internet resources – the founder of Bits.media, Ivan Tikhonov, learned about the decision of the Saratov court only after the blocking by Roskomnadzor.
Already on July 5, the block was lifted – thanks to the fact that Bits.media disabled the controversial page. But that didn't make the verdict fairer.. Therefore, the Digital Rights Center team officially undertook to represent the interests of Bits.media in court.
DRC lawyers believe that the blocking violated, firstly, substantive law.
The court made a decision, agreeing with the position of the prosecutor, who is sure that it is impossible to distribute information about cryptocurrencies in Russia, since the law “On the Central Bank” prohibits the “issuance of money surrogates”.
However, the prosecutor did not take into account the circumstances:
nowhere in the Russian legislation is cryptocurrency mentioned as a monetary surrogate; moreover, there is no definition of a monetary surrogate;
the civil law circulation of cryptocurrencies is not prohibited by the current legislation, and the norms of administrative and criminal law do not contain any responsibility for the circulation and exchange of cryptocurrencies.
DRC lawyers are confident that, secondly, there has been a violation of procedural law.
The court of first instance deprived the owner of the Bits.media website of the opportunity to defend their rights and present their own position at the hearing. No one notified the owner of the start of the trial, despite the presence on the site of contacts and information about the domain administrator in the WHOIS database.
In the absence of the owner of Bits.media, the trial was conducted in violation of the principles of competition and equality of the parties to the civil process, provided for by the Code of Administrative Procedure of the Russian Federation. And this despite the fact that the decision entailed a number of substantive legal consequences, violating the owner’s rights to freedom of search, receipt and dissemination of information, obliging to execute the verdict without a specific indication: what kind of information about cryptocurrencies violates the law.
The lawyers representing Bits.media appealed the decision of the judge of the Volzhsky District Court of Saratov in an appeal, where they succeeded in sending the case for a new trial in the same court by the same judge. In parallel, the lawyers contacted the Saratov prosecutors. Based on their numerous jurisprudence (including the case of the exchange aggregator Bestchange.ru), the lawyers persuaded the employees of the supervisory authority to abandon the lawsuit on a new circle.
As a result, on January 24, 2023, judge Alla Danilenko, who in the spring of 2022 ruled to restrict access to Bits.media, rejected the acting. prosecutor of the Volzhsky district of the city of Saratov from an administrative lawsuit regarding claims against the site. DRC lawyer Inna Tverezovskaya, representing the interests of Bits.media in court, of course, did not object to the dismissal of the lawsuit.. As a result, the case was dismissed. From that moment, representatives of the DRC say, all information posted on Bits.media has ceased to be considered prohibited on the territory of the Russian Federation.