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Russia drops US neo-Nazi site from .ru domain

© GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA/AFP/File | Russia's internet watchdog called for a domain provider to drop The Daily Stormer after white supremacist violence in Charlottesville at the weekend

MOSCOW (AFP) - 

Russia's internet watchdog said Thursday it had called on a domain provider to stop hosting the website of a US white supremacist group under fire following the Charlottesville violence.

The Daily Stormer, which helped organise last weekend's rally that led to deadly clashes with counter-demonstrators, was dropped by its US service providers earlier this week.

But it had registered in Russia at the address dailystormer.ru.

On Wednesday the website's page on VK.com, a popular Russian social media network, announced they were "back on the normie web," linking to their new Russian website.

AFP was able to access the page briefly on Wednesday evening, where one headline read "A tale of true friendship: Trump called Putin to get us a new domain!"

But within hours, the page was down again, and Russia's internet watchdog on Thursday explained it had made the request to take it offline.

Alexander Zharov, the head of Russia's telecommunications watchdog Roskomnadzor, said in a statement that they had asked the domain registrar Ru-center to "quickly" stop hosting it.

The website "promotes neo-Nazi ideology and fuels racist, nationalist and other types of hatred," he added in the statement.

On Sunday, US web hosts GoDaddy evicted the site following hate speech against the young woman protester killed by a suspected Nazi sympathiser at Charlottesville. The site switched to Google domains, but was dropped from that service Monday.

Daily Stormer's VK page was still active on Thursday, giving no indication of what the website's creators plan to do next.

Dropping the hosting of a whole website on such a request is unusual but many US white supremacy groups have registered on Russian social networks like VK which they use with little oversight, said Alexander Verkhovsky, director of Moscow-based SOVA centre which tracks nationalism and xenophobia in Russia.

"They need a large platform that they can hide on and which has weak control," Verkhovsky said. "It's very convenient."

"They are not being deliberately encouraged here but nobody could care less about them, they are not from here, (Russian) people don't read in English and they don't write complaints to the administrators," he added.

VK also hosts other groups that organised the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville.

They include the National Socialist Movement and the League of the South, which launched its page there last month, saying it was "because of increased censorship on Facebook".

© 2017 AFP