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The 13 Worst Bits of Russia's Current and Maybe Future Internet Legislation

BY Jessica McKenzie | Monday, April 21 2014

It appears that Russia is on the brink of passing still more repressive Internet regulations. A new telecommunications bill that would require popular blogs—those with 3,000 or more visits a day—to join a government registry and conform to government-mandated standards is expected to pass this week. What follows is a list of the worst bits of both proposed and existing Russian Internet law. Let us know in the comments or on Twitter if we missed anything.

First, in the proposed legislation:

  1. The new bill defines a blogger as “a person who posts information [to all] on a personal page” and also includes microblogs and social networks.

  2. Bloggers must reveal their surname, initials and email address to the site host and government, although it seems like they can remain pseudonymous to their readers. This does anti-government bloggers very little good.

  3. Bloggers “may be removed from the registry” if their readership drops below 3,000 a day for more than six months. Then again, “may” also allows for “may not.”

  4. Bloggers are responsible for fact-checking information, or risk being sued for libel. This will give bloggers without the financial security to risk a libel suit pause before publishing anything remotely risky.

  5. No swearing.

  6. Bloggers would also be held responsible for comments on their site.

  7. Blog platforms and social networks must store user activity for six months and allow authorities to access it when asked.

  8. A Moscow City Council member has also proposed storing all Russian user data on Russian soil.

  9. “Disseminating false information about banks” is being considered as justification for blocking websites without appealing to the courts.

  10. Another bill proposes to ban “negative content about Second World War veterans, the armed forces and the authority of the state” and make “offending patriotic feelings” punishable by up to five years in jail.

And now, in the existing legislation:

  1. In December, Russia passed a law permitting the authorities to block websites calling for unauthorized demonstrations without going through the judicial system. They used that as justification for blocking all major opposition sites in mid-March.

  2. Russia banned “homosexual propaganda”—which includes informational material or anything remotely pro-gay—from the Internet. In order to remove one art blog from the Russian Internet in October 2013, the authorities blocked SquareSpace and more than 26,000 other sites hosted on the platform.

  3. The authorities can also penalize people for publishing insults to religious feeling. Keep in mind that this restriction and the one about gay propaganda is not limited to bloggers with a readership of 3,000 or more. These restrictions and associated punishments apply to all Internet users.

All of these restrictions began just over a year ago, when Russia first began selectively censoring content deemed illegal or harmful to children. At the time, Russian blogger and journalist Anton Nosik criticized the legislation, but told the New York Times, “The track record of the authorities shows they are not going to enforce it strictly.”

So much for that track record, eh?

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