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Armenian Legislators: You Can Be As Anonymous on the 'Net As You Like—Until You Can't

BY Jessica McKenzie | Tuesday, April 22 2014

Imagine if you could be unmasked on the Internet at any moment. (Flickr/Fibonacci Blue)

A proposed bill in Armenia would make it illegal for media outlets to include defamatory remarks by anonymous or fake sources, and require sites to remove libelous comments within 12 hours unless they identify the author.

One of the drafters of the legislation, Edmon Marukyan, denies that the purpose of the bill is to curb expression.

“You can remain incognito as much as you like. Write your posts, but if they end up in the media, then someone has to bear responsibility,” Marukyan told the Institute for War & Peace Reporting (IWPR).

Artur Grigoryan, a lawyer, told IWPR that he thinks this is a fair measure.

“You shouldn’t confuse freedom of the media with anarchy in the media,” he said, adding that this will prevent media outlets from pulling comments from Facebook.

“If something is being discussed on Facebook, let it stay there.”

(Whether journalists should or shouldn't quote from social media without permission—ethically speaking, if not legally—is an ongoing debate in Western media, too.)

However, Armenian media organizations disagree, and have written a petition to have the bill withdrawn.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) reports that the Organization for Security and Co-operation has raised several issues about the bill, including its “broad scope, vague definitions, and general lack of clarity.”

EFF concludes that, “Unfortunately, the bill would most certainly curb expression—stifling the commentary of those who would no longer feel secure posting on a medium that would require them to reveal their true self.”

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