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Restrictions on freedom of expression in the video games industry in Russia

Alexander Abyshko, Maria Mironova, Alfia Mutygullina, Ivan Ponomarev, German Sabirov and Anastasiya Chuvaeva

Keywords: video games; censorship; rating systems; children protection; hot news; recommendations for developers

The video games industry is expanding globally, and such markets as Russia have a potential for further growth attracting more and more publishers, and pushing compliance with Russian law into the business frontlines. The aim of this article is to give to the video games developers a survival kit on the Russian market highlighting the most problematic areas for foreign publishers, such as censorship, age ratings and restricted content.

The most recent trends in judicial and administrative practice show that Russian jurisdiction is extended by official bodies to foreign businesses targeting the Russian market. The LinkedIn case discussed in this article is a representative example of such an approach. More recently, the district court of Kirov decided to block access on AppStore and Google Play to video games promoting criminal subculture.

On the one hand, there are some positive trends for the game industry, like the activity of the Russian government in the field of regulating video games, namely, the Ministry of Sports of the Russian Federation has recently recognized eSports as an official sport. On the other hand, the Russian market conceals many pitfalls, for example, with regard to restricted content. The situation with respect to freedom of expression, ideas and information continues to deteriorate in all spheres of public life with video games being no exception.

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