Moscow Outlaws Billboard QR Codes Due to Navalny's Anti-Putin Campaign
Following the use of matrix barcodes by allies of imprisoned Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny to hide their recently begun anti-Putin campaign ahead of the 2024 presidential election, Moscow authorities have outlawed billboards using QR codes.
In the run-up to the March 15–17 election, Navalny has urged supporters to support any candidate other than Vladimir Putin.
Putin officially declared his intention to run for a fifth term one day later.
Navalny's team created the website neputin.org and encourages Russians to persuade their fellow countrymen to vote against Putin.
The website could be accessed by a QR code that said “Russia. Happy New Year.” and was posted on billboards all throughout the country.
According to Sota, an independent news source, the billboards were quickly taken down by municipal personnel.
Moscow bans QR codes in billboards over Navalny's anti-Putin campaign
Ad distributors received a letter from the municipal administration of Moscow on Thursday, Dec. 7, telling them to "exclude QR codes from billboard designs," as per a document obtained by Sota and the business news website RBC.
Ivan Shubin, the head of the media department of the municipal administration, argues that QR codes that function as an online link "include various information and are prone to changes, which may break the federal Law on Advertising," particularly in light of the rise in hacker assaults and website breaches.
The independent news website Meduza revealed that readers were first sent to a separate website advertising a national art competition by the QR code that led to neputin.org.
Meduza claims that the code was most likely redirected by Navalny's allies to point to the neputin.org website of the anti-Putin campaign.
Roskomnadzor, Russia's communications watchdog, has restricted access to neputin.org, but it is still possible to access it using a VPN, according to the team of the jailed Kremlin critic.