The Russia (Sanctions) (EU Exit) (Amendment) (No. 9) Regulations 2022 came into force on 29 April 2022 and amend the Russia (Sanctions) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019 (S.I. 2019/855) (‘the 2019 Regulations’) by introducing new trade sanctions measures relating to internet services and online media services. Specifically, the instrument amends Part 5 (Trade) of the 2019 Regulations, which contains trade sanctions measures, and makes related consequential amendments.

The amending regulations introduce new regulation 54A of the 2019 Regulations which provides for a number of restrictions in the form of trade in services sanctions. Most notably, the 2019 Regulations now contain requirements that:>

  • Social media services, including video sharing platforms, must take reasonable steps to prevent content that is generated directly on the service, or uploaded to or shared on the service, by a designated person/entity being encountered by a user of the service in the United Kingdom.

  • Internet access services, including fixed and wireless broadband providers, must take reasonable steps to prevent users of the service in the United Kingdom from accessing websites provided by a designated person/entity (the Explanatory Memorandum notes that this will likely take the form of URL blocking).

  • Application stores, including those on smartphones, must take reasonable steps to prevent users of the application store in the United Kingdom from downloading or otherwise accessing an application provided by a designated person/entity.

Regulation 5 of the 2019 Regulations (amended by regulation 4 of the amending regulations) confers on the Secretary of State the power to designate a person for the purposes of new regulation 54A. Failure to comply with a requirement imposed under new regulation 54A is a criminal offence.

The UK’s statutory Russia guidance was updated on 29 April to refer to the amending regulations and advises that companies providing the above internet services should check whether an entity has been designated by the UK Government for the purposes of the amending regulations and take the necessary action to ensure compliance with the prohibitions.

The amendment regulation also confers additional powers to the Office of Communications (“OFCOM”) (the UK’s regulatory and competition authority for broadcasting and telecommunications) including new regulation 77A which grants OFCOM the power to request a person to provide information for the purpose of monitoring compliance with or detecting evasion of regulation 54A.

Next steps

The new regulations place great responsibility on social media and internet access service providers to ensure that they are complying with UK designations. In order to comply with the 2019 Regulations, relevant entities need to implement robust screening mechanisms to ensure that designated users are not generating, uploading or sharing content on its service platform.

In addition, relevant entities will need to proactively implement measures (i.e., URL or DNS blocking) to prevent UK users of its service from accessing content (i.e., websites or application stores) provided by designated persons and/or entities.

Please see here for: