Rozcomnadzor's Corruption Scandal Doesn't Prevent The Russian Government From Empowering It To Ignore Due Process
from the russia-gonna-russia dept
Reading our coverage of Rozcomnadzor, the Russian government agency tasked with keeping the internet clean of piracy, you would know that the agency has a laughably bad track record for pretty much everything. Even as ranking members of the agency have been embroiled in a corruption scandal in which they bilked Russian taxpayers by creating fake employees, the statistics out on Rozcomnadzor’s ability to carry out its stated mission — blocking sites used for piracy on the internet — are horrendous. Put simply, the agency has managed to take down 4,000 “pirate” sites through legal cluster bombs that have inflicted 41,000 sites worth of collateral damage. Any honest look at those kinds of numbers would lead a sincere government to seriously consider whether such an agency was worthy of existence at all.
The Russian government, on the other hand, has decided to expand Rozcomnadzor’s powers by essentially nixing anything that would even remotely look like due process. The new proposal being considered by the Russian Ministry of Culture is severe, to say the least.
A new amendment that that was published by the Ministry of Culture proposes to allow for near-instant pirate site blockades to protect the local movie industry, Vedomosti reports.
At the moment, website owners are given three days to remove infringing content before any action is taken. Under the new proposal, site blockades would be implemented less than 24 hours after Rozcomnadzor is alerted. Website owners will not get the chance to remove the infringing content and a court order isn’t required either.
If this looks like a change almost perfectly designed for even more collateral damage and practically begging to be abused, then you’re looking at this in exactly the right way. The collateral damage, already severe, will be worsened by the supercharged speed of the takedown process and the omission of any site’s ability to address the court’s concerns prior to having its site censored. It’s almost as if removing infringing material from websites isn’t the actual goal of this agency at all. Instead, quick censorship based on accusations without judicial oversight is the order of the day, and it is inevitable that the government and adverse commercial entities will wield this weapon with abandon.
Keep in mind that Rozcomnadzor has already proven itself unreliable on matters of public servitude. The Russian government itself, of course, has little interest in free speech rights for its citizens and has built a reputation for itself as perfectly willing to pretzel Russian law to silence dissenting opinions. Everyone should be immediately suspicious of the Russian government handing itself so much power to censor outside of the Russian’s courts purview.
There are some making much noise about the law’s requirement that sites be infringing on Russian films.
The new blocking plans go further than any of the previous legislation, but they will only apply to movies that have “a national film certificate” from Russian authorities, as HWR points out. This doesn’t cover any Hollywood movies, which typically top the local box office.
Except this focus on Russian films hasn’t kept those tens of thousands of sites caught up as collateral damage out of the censorship blast, has it? This new law under consideration is dangerous to anyone that cares about free speech, particularly in a region already besieged by efforts to limit that speech.