Russia: web crawler searching for Putin memes and other banned content launched

The political regime in Moscow, led by Vladimir Putin, is accelerating Russia’s transformation into a dystopia. The institution that controls communications and the media market, Roskomnadzor, has launched a new tool that scans the country’s internet for banned content.

It’s a web crawler called Oculus, which can analyse images and videos to uncover protests, memes, child pornography, material promoting LGBTQ+ culture or damaging the image of Kremlin leader Vladimir Putin.

The technology was developed by a state-owned company and cost $783,000, The Moscow Times reports. Before Oculus, this work was done manually by employees at the Main Radio Frequency Center, a subsidiary of Roskomnadzor.

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According to its developers, the crawler can analyze 200,000 images every day. Artificial intelligence-based technologies aimed at analysing internet content were developed for Roskomnadzor and Yandex, Russia’s largest online service provider, according to

Internet activity in Russia is increasingly dangerous, and censorship has been stepped up since the outbreak of war. In 2022, 100,000 websites were deleted or blocked, up from 7,000 in 2021 and 1,500 in 2020.

According to Russia’s independent media, it’s not just memes of Vladimir Putin that are banned. Media organisations must avoid writing or talking about the Kremlin leader’s health. What’s more, immediately after a news item about Putin a TV station is not allowed to broadcast a negative news item.

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