Russian parliament debates new Internet law
Russia presents an interesting case-study in controlling the Web. Unlike China, it doesn’t operate a massive firewall and doesn’t block thousands of Web-sites; it’s usually missing from the lists of “Internet enemies”. On the other hand, Kremlin is often in the news for its tenuous connections to cyberwarfare and physical intimidation of dissidents, both offline ...
Russia presents an interesting case-study in controlling the Web. Unlike China, it doesn't operate a massive firewall and doesn't block thousands of Web-sites; it's usually missing from the lists of "Internet enemies". On the other hand, Kremlin is often in the news for its tenuous connections to cyberwarfare and physical intimidation of dissidents, both offline and online. There is also plenty of spin produced by new media companies close to Kremlin, the most well-known of them being New Media Stars, founded by Konstantin Rykov, a 29-year old member of Duma.
Several Russian sources report (in Russian; I couldn’t find any English-language media picking up this story) on a draft of a comprehensive Internet law discussed in Duma at the moment. Two features of the proposed law stand out in particular. First, legal jurisdiction would be determined based on the location of the plaintiff (i.e. a Russian oligarch might be take a foreign online news source to court in Russia – not a very encouraging development, given the compromised position of some Russian courts). Second, the primary legal responsibility would rest with the owner of the platform where offensive content was published, not necessarily with its author (i.e. it might be possible to sue a foreign news web-site based on an anonymous comment left in response to one of its articles).
None of this bodes well for the freedom of speech in Russia: even if some foreign sites/companies would refuse payment to Russian courts, this could be used as an excuse to legally block access to them in the entire country (not to mention that Moscow may emerge to displace London as the favorite location to hear a libel case in court). Let’s see if the law passes: even some Russian commentators and politicians are skeptical about it, trusting that Putin, who once said that Internet in Russia wouldn’t be regulated by the state, would stick to his word. But that Russian MPs are even considering such a law suggests that there might be some major rethinking of how the Kremlin would like to approach the Web.
Photo by Bernt Rostad/Flickr
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