Russian Internet Censorship of LGBTQ+ Websites

Internet censorship of LGBTQ+ websites has risen by over 354% in Russia since September 2023.
Marchers with a rainbow flag in St Petersburg, Russia.
Samuel Woodhams
Agata Michalak
Samuel Woodhams & Agata Michalak

First published September 26, 2023. Last updated to incorporate the latest LGBTQ+ websites blocked in Russia.

  • 127% increase in internet censorship of LGBTQ+ websites since the “gay propaganda” law was expanded on 5th December, 2022
  • 241 websites blocked in two months since Roskomnadzor’s criteria for blocking sites came into force on 1st September, a 354% increase compared to the months leading up the changes
  • Websites blocked include media outlets, dating websites, charities and travel blogs
  • Roskomnadzor directly responsible for 42% of all LGBTQ+ website blocks

Russian LGBT Internet Censorship

In the past year, the LGBTQ+ community has experienced increased persecution in Russia. To find out how the latest legislation has undermined internet freedom in the country, we decided to investigate the websites officially blocked by the government.

Although the LGBTQ+ community in Russia has faced persecution for well over a decade both online and offline, the Kremlin has recently taken unprecedented steps to eradicate all LGBTQ+ internet content in the country.

On 5th December 2022, Putin signed a new law prohibiting the spread of any information about “non-traditional relationships” to both adults and children. This expanded existing 2013 legislation that’s been called “a classic example of political homophobia” by Human Rights Watch. It has already been used to sue social media platforms, shut down NGOs and imprison individuals.[1]

To gauge the impact of the changes on Russia’s internet, we analyzed over 200,000 websites blocked in the country since January 2022.

The number of LGBTQ+ websites blocked since the law was passed has increased by 127% compared with the equivalent prior period. While the majority of these were adult websites and may have been blocked under existing anti-porn legislation, we also identified a significant increase in the number of LGBTQ+ charities, news websites, and blogs being restricted.

On September 1, Roskomnadzor’s criteria for blocking LGBT content came into force. The agency also launched an initiative that allows ordinary citizens to flag websites they think should be taken down.

In the the two weeks that followed, we documented a 725% increase in LGBTQ+ websites blocked in the country compared with the prior 20 days. Blocked websites include dating sites, a transgender legal support charity and a queer digital library.

While the rate of website blocking has slowed since, it remains 354% higher than before the criteria was published.

Chart showing internet censorship of LGBTQ+ websites in Russia following recent legislative changes

Chart showing number of LGBTQ+ websites blocked in Russia since the “gay propaganda” law was passed

Although Roskomnadzor frequently only lists specific URLs for ISPs to block rather than the entire domain, blocking a single web page requires a level of precision normally only possible on HTTP connections. However, data from Cloudflare shows that 98.9% of all connections in the country utilize the HTTPS protocol, which means that entire websites become collateral damage when a single page is blocked.

For this reason, we have included entire websites in our analysis even if it’s only an individual web page that appears in the blocklist.

The increased censorship of LGBTQ+ websites coincides with a huge increase in spending by Roskomandzor. It’s not just this type of internet content that’s being blocked, in total we’ve documented over 4,000 websites blocked in the country due to content related to the conflict.

This heightened internet censorship, along with the increased surveillance of peoples’ internet activity, has prompted millions in Russia to turn to VPN (Virtual Private Network) apps.

Internet Censorship in Russia: How does it work?

Internet censorship in Russia has drastically increased in recent years and now hundreds of websites are often added to the block list each day.

To keep up, Russian censors have been working to centralize the internet censorship process by installing sophisticated deep packet inspection (DPI) devices across telecommunication networks.

This allows censors to block a website across every network in the country, rather than working with internet service providers (ISPs) and relying on them to block access to the websites.

The devices can reportedly be triggered by SNI, IP, and QUIC-based traffic, each of which leads to unique blocking characteristics.[2]

However, this isn’t the case in every instance and often certain websites will be blocked on certain networks but not on others. Likewise, each ISP uses distinct methods to block websites, whether that’s HTTPS manipulation, IP address blocking, or DNS tampering.

The most common form of internet censorship in the country is DNS based interference and RST packet injection during TLS handshakes. This means connections using both HTTP and HTTPS protocols can be disrupted.

Whatever the method of blocking, internet censorship in Russia can still be circumvented with the use of VPN apps. In response, there has been a rapid increase in VPN blocking in the country, as well as new laws that could significantly limit their use.

To conduct this study, we analyzed websites listed in Roskomnadzor’s official unified register of forbidden websites. To determine the relevancy of a website we searched the URL, domain and metadata of thousands of sites for specific keywords before manually reviewing the results. While the majority of the entries relate to adult websites, we have also conducted analysis of non-adult websites via additional filtering.

Despite being the most comprehensive and accurate data source available, there have been reports that suggest Roskomandzor is blocking some websites without adding them to the unified register.[3] Given that, our findings are a conservative estimate of the true picture of LGBTQ+ internet censorship in Russia.

We will continue to monitor how this legislation undermines internet freedom and human rights in Russia in the following weeks.

When Were LGBT Websites Blocked the Most?

Internet censorship of this kind of content in Russia existed long before the change in the law last year. The vast majority of the websites blocked prior to that were adult websites but several online publications were also targeted, including the LGBTQ+ digital archive,

Website blocks of LGBTQ+ civil society groups have increased significantly since the changes however. Websites including, and have all been taken offline alongside dating websites, blogs and forums.

Since the criteria for blocking LGBT content was enforced at the start of September, the number of blocked websites has increased yet further. As with the previous periods we analyzed, the majority of these were adult websites. However, websites caught up in the latest wave of internet censorship also included a legal assistance project for transgender people, a queer digital library, and travel blog.

The homepage of the LGBTQ+ dating app, Romeo, was blocked on September 26 by Roskomandzor. According to the Google Play Store listing, the app has amassed over 5 million users. Smaller travel websites, including, have also been blocked in the weeks since the criteria for blocking websites was published.

The censorship of these smaller websites is yet further evidence of the Kremlin’s desire to silence any and all LGBTQ+ voices online.

To minimize the potential for further persecution, the complete list of blocked websites will not be made public. Please get in touch to access the complete list.

Which Agency Blocks LGBT Websites the Most?

Although Roskomnadzor is the agency responsible for blocking websites in Russia, it’s not the only government agency that can propose websites to be taken offline.

Other agencies can request websites be taken offline and pass these requests to Roskomnadzor. They then appear in the register which circulates among ISPs in the country to ensure people can’t access them. However, the agency responsible is not always available in the data.

The following table details the agencies responsible for blocking LGBTQ+ websites in Russia.

Chart showing which agencies are most responsible for internet censorship of LGBTQ+ websites in Russia

Chart showing the agencies responsible for internet censorship of LGBTQ+ websites in Russia since changes to the law were passed


To determine the impact of the expansion of “gay propaganda” legislation on the internet censorship of LGBTQ+ website content in Russia we analyzed entries in the official database of blocked websites between 10 January, 2022, and 31 October, 2023.

We scraped the metadata for all of the websites before filtering the data with relevant keywords and used a website list curated by the Open Observatory for Network Interference to identify LGBTQ+ content.

Manual analysis of the websites was then conducted to identify the charities, news outlets, and NGOs affected.

Main image: May demonstration. Marchers with a rainbow LGBT flag in St Petersburg, Russia. May 1, 2019. Credit: Shutterstock.