Russian Government Decides To Stamp Out 'Fake News' At Home, Presumably Leaving Export Operations Unaffected

from the censorship-begins-at-home dept

Another nation’s government has decided it needs more direct control of the press. It will come as no surprise it’s a nation fond of our current president and understandably delighted the leader of the free world spends an inordinate amount of time bashing First Amendment-protected activity.

Russia, which American intelligence agencies said spread its fair share of misinformation during the 2016 United States election, says it will crack down on “fake news” at home, with a proposed law that critics say could limit freedom of speech on the internet.

The bill, submitted by lawmakers from the governing party, United Russia, proposes holding social networks accountable for “inaccurate” comments users post.

It appears the government wishes to monopolize the creation of fake news, cutting out amateur bloggers, podcasters, and Facebook users who can’t reliably sway foreign elections. Now it can expand its control of worldwide media past its stake in Sputnik and RT to every medium-to-large social media platform providing service to Russian users.

Much like every other law enacted to govern online speech, the actual perpetrators will be ignored in favor of directly targeting social media platforms. Possible fines of $800,000 await any platform hosting more than 100,000 users for not removing alleged “fake news” within 24 hours of being notified.

This should result in plenty of over-moderation, much like what followed in the wake of Germany’s ridiculous speech laws. Those coupled 24-hour takedown demands with hefty fines, resulting in the immediate targeting of satirical posts and comments made by politicians who support government censorship. Unfortunately, the generated irony isn’t going to be enough to offset the losses suffered by users who will see their posts vanish into the ether to keep social media platforms one step ahead of the g-men.

This bill targets “inaccurate information,” about as vague a term ever applied to online speech. It doesn’t even have to be completely wrong or provably false. It just has to contain an error somewhere. Considering the internet is host to a sizable amount of heated opinions and hyperbole, it will unquestionably result in the deletion of posts containing no factual assertions and will drive another nail into the coffin of satire.

But fake news laws aren’t really about punishing fake news. What they’re intended to do is give those with authoritarian leanings — usually coupled with a history of corruption — an easy way to cleanse the web of snooping reporters and complaining citizens. As the New York Times notes, supporters of the bill have made it pretty clear this is more about eliminating domestic dissent than chasing down fictitious posts masquerading as truth.

In ultimate view-from-nowhere phrasing, the Times manages to deliver both an understatement and a “no shit” moment in the space of one sentence.

Activists are skeptical that the authorities have Russians’ best interests at heart.

This sentence could have been written about nearly every action the Russian government has taken under every leader over the past 100 years. Sadly enough, this sentence could be written about nearly every government in the world and applied to almost any piece of grandstanding, hot-button-du-jour legislation.

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Comments on “Russian Government Decides To Stamp Out 'Fake News' At Home, Presumably Leaving Export Operations Unaffected”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Russia has been moving closer and closer to China in recent years, both politically, economically, militarily, and (perhaps most significantly) ideologically. It’s been quite a reversal from the Yeltsin era, which was notable for its failed attempt to remake Russia as a western-style liberal democracy embracing free speech and free market capitalism.

As Russia slowly transforms into a Chinese-style fascist state, such news of Russia’s latest censorship attempts become almost routine. The big question is, what can the West do to help turn this ship around, or will Russia inevitably become another China?

Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

YouTube management has the right to decide whether a video should be removed from YouTube. Alex Jones has the right to upload that video elsewhere, including his own servers. The First Amendment limits government powers in re: controlling and suppressing speech; it says fuck all about platforms being forced to host speech that platform owners/operators do not want to host.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

See, this is where you reach the point where we have to explain to you the difference between a private company’s privately controlled content moderation policies and laws.

That’s the bottom-scraping level you’re at, here. You’re conversing at a level where you are wholly unable to discern the difference between "YouTube gets to say what gets broadcast via its platform" and "Russian government decides what gets broadcast on all platforms".

Grow up.

Ninja (profile) says:

“Activists are skeptical that the authorities have Russians’ best interests at heart. “

“This sentence could have been written about nearly every action the Russian government has taken under every leader over the past 100 years.”

Sadly not only the Russians. And some western dictatorships had third-party interests bought for them with free-world money.

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