A gross human rights violation occurred in Russia on Thursday night: the government blocked Canadian bobsledder Justin Kripp's website — a wondrous place where one could, if they wanted, find shirtless pictures of Canada's bearded, muscley bobsled team. Kripps doesn't know why this happened. (If we were Kripps, we'd probably start with the shirtless, underwear-clad, muscled bobsledders with the big gay following.)
Kripps tweeted that he noticed his site was blocked and tweeted the demonstrative Russian notice that he received:
A rough translation with input from The Atlantic's Olga Khazan:
Dear users: We are very sorry, but access to the requested content is forbidden.
Possible reasons include:
1) Access is forbidden because of a law or decision by the lawmakers of the Russian federation.
2) [not super clear] but something like "the content of this site falls under the single register of the Russian federation, access to which is forbidden."
[they're talking about the internet blacklist created in 2012]
3) The content of this site contains information that it is forbidden to distribute. [this is a register that aims to protect against copyright infringement that doesn't allow people to view infringing content, apparently.]
According to the notice, it's either a copyright, a blacklist, or Russian law. Kripps's site doesn't appear to violate a copyright —it's mostly personal tweets and blog posts. And we plugged in the address into the registry but didn't come away with any clear idea if it was on said blacklist. That bring us to the first reason on this list: Is Kripps violating a law? And if he's violating a Russian law, which one is it?
Here's a theory:
The biggest and most-talked about laws in Russia right now are its anti-gay measures which aim to curb "gay propaganda." That purposely vague law makes it illegal to spread the word of equality and could even be used to punish someone who tells a child that gay people exist. So it's possible that because Kripps's site automatically updates with what he tweets, it could have automatically published a gay rights message.
On February 6, Kripps tweeted a link to a video from the Canadian Institute of Diversity. That video was part of its "Keep the Games Gay" campaign, a response to Russia's anti-gay laws which points out the inherent "gayness" of the Olympic Games:
That video would be in direct violation of Russia's gay propaganda laws, which prohibit materials "that makes nontraditional sexual relations attractive" or speech that equates" the social value of traditional and nontraditional sexual relations."
That's one possibility.
Kripps and his Canadian bobsled teammates are also sex symbols and have a little bit of a gay following. In January, Kripps tweeted this photo of him, his teammates, their quads, and biceps, in their underwear:
made the rounds in the gay blogosphere. They were named "beards of the week" by gay blogger and New York City expat Andrew Sullivan. Perhaps news of Kripps's newfound status as a gay sex symbol made its way to Sochi, and this was inevitable.
Regardless, Russia is denying its people their God-given right to see Kripps and his teammates in underwear. This is a travesty. Fortunately, a Canadian reporter in Sochi does say that Kripps's website is accessible on his mobile phone.