Russia Wants Social Media Sites To Be Liable For User Content To Avoid Middle East-Style Protests

from the secondary-liability dept

Different countries seem to be taking very different strategies when it comes to thinking about the role of social media in citizen protests against governments. Some are blocking certain sites, or shutting down the internet entirely. However, over in Russia, as pointed out by Julian Sanchez, it appears that the leadership is considering simply making social media sites responsible for what users say on them:
Security agencies have proposed that owners of social-media sites be made responsible for all comments on their sites, a way to pressure them to turn over data on individual users who might be subject to criminal prosecution.
Of course, foreign companies -- such as Facebook and Twitter -- can probably resist such pressure to some extent, but it could cause some problems. On top of that, the report notes that the Kremlin trained a special "school of bloggers" to counteract social media efforts that go against the government. Yes, they have their own Web 2.0 propaganda force.

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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 7 Mar 2011 @ 7:01am

    It is an amusing story, but try to put it in the context of the real world.

    If you had a building, say in the middle of Moscow. You painted it with blackboard paint, and put out an endless supply of chalk. People keep coming by and writing anti-government messages, writing about revolts, formulating plans to attack the government, and so on.

    Do you think that building would be ignored by the authorities? Do you think that it would be tolerated for long? Do you not think that the building owner would face charges?

    Just because something is online doesn't make it suddenly more "right".

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Gwiz (profile), 7 Mar 2011 @ 7:24am

      Re:

      Just because something is online doesn't make it suddenly more "right".

      Just because something is online doesn't make wrong, either.

      I don't see that anti-government messages or writing about revolts is wrong in either case.

      I also, see no wrong with formulating attacks on the government as long as they are non violent in nature.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        harbingerofdoom (profile), 7 Mar 2011 @ 11:02am

        Re: Re:

        Just because something is online doesn't make it suddenly more "right".

        Just because something is online doesn't make wrong, either.


        and just because you forced it offline doesnt make it go away regardless of it being right OR wrong.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 7 Mar 2011 @ 7:26am

      Re:

      "Do you think that building would be ignored by the authorities?"

      I certainly do not expect the authorities to ignore disruptive messages that make calls to violence. I expect them to act to prevent the violence by investigating who is writing these message and if they present a real threat. It should e easy to find them, since the have to be physically present to write the messages.

      "Do you think that it would be tolerated for long?"

      Maybe not. People would quickly start complaining, and then the authorities would have to act.

      "Do you not think that the building owner would face charges?"

      Hum...not really. He provides a public messaging service. It is not his business what people do with it. He could moderate it or alert the authorities to suspicious activity, but I do not think it is his job to police the board.

      "Just because something is online doesn't make it suddenly more "right"."

      Exactly. Provoking people and trying to start a war is a "crime" in either world. You should go after those people, not the service provider. Shutting down the service provider only hides a problem (that is now working in the background) to hurt you!

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Richard (profile), 7 Mar 2011 @ 7:45am

      Re:

      Ah I see it didn't take long for the Kremlin's blogging army to find this post.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      CommonSense (profile), 7 Mar 2011 @ 8:25am

      Re:

      "Do you think that building would be ignored by the authorities? Do you think that it would be tolerated for long? Do you not think that the building owner would face charges?"

      Do you think those would be the "right" things to do?? It is not a crime against humanity to say, or even write somewhere, that you hate the government, or more appropriately, that you hate something the government is doing. Online or off, just because it is something you do not like, does not mean it is something that is 'wrong'.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 7 Mar 2011 @ 8:29am

        Re: Re:

        It is not a crime against humanity to say, or even write somewhere, that you hate the government, or more appropriately, that you hate something the government is doing.

        No, but if you are saying "I hate the government, meet me at 10PM with your guns and bombs and let's take the kremlin over", you might be going over the edge.

        The building owner would bear at least some legal responsibility for facilitation of this sort of thing. It could even be considered that the the building owner was encouraging it (by specifically not controlling it's use).

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          CommonSense (profile), 8 Mar 2011 @ 12:32pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          "It could even be considered that the the building owner was encouraging it" ... COULD, you say, but I think only by those narrow minded enough to not see the bigger picture.

          "No, but if you are saying "I hate the government, meet me at 10PM with your guns and bombs and let's take the kremlin over", you might be going over the edge."
          -You'll get no argument that that would be going over the edge (which sometimes is inevitable, see the Declaration of Independence), though there is absolutely NO logical step that would take the actions of a user, going over the edge or not, and make them the responsibility of someone else (the company, or building or what have you..) Users are not a company's children, and therefore the company holds no responsibility for the actions of them (Provided they follow the clear legal guidelines).

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Josh in CharlotteNC (profile), 7 Mar 2011 @ 9:42am

      Re: AC support for Russian censorship

      Do you think that building would be ignored by the authorities? Do you think that it would be tolerated for long? Do you not think that the building owner would face charges?

      If this building was in a country that supported freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and privacy rights, then absolutely I would expect all those things.

      But that's not Russia. And neither is it America any longer.

      Just because something is online doesn't make it suddenly more "right".

      Just because something is done by a government doesn't make it suddenly more "right".

      Just because something is done by a large corporation doesn't make it suddenly more "right".

      Just because something is deemed legal doesn't make it suddenly more "right".

      However, your comment is essentially correct. Just because something is online does not make it more right. It is not technology that makes something wrong or right. It is the action itself. And because of that, holding any technology or company that makes the technology accountable for the actions of the people who use it is wrong.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 7 Mar 2011 @ 10:58am

        Re: Re: AC support for Russian censorship

        There is line in the sand between "technology" and "publishing". Wordpress, example, is a technology (software) to publish blogs. Wordpress is the underlying technology. Putting it on a domain and publishing with it is an act. The content isn't the technology.

        Social media sites provide a technology, but they also help you publish, and what you put up becomes part of their larger publication. There is a point where these publishers have to accept at least some responsiblity for what is happening in their publication. Technology is like a printing press, publication is the magazine. The software is a printing press, the resulting content on the domain is the magazine. We would hold Wired magazine responsible if their publication contained child porn. Why do we not hold internet publishers responsible on the same level?

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          Josh in CharlotteNC (profile), 7 Mar 2011 @ 12:48pm

          Re: Re: Re: AC support for Russian censorship

          Clever, but I'm not buying. Wordpress, Facebook, Twitter, and all those others provide the tools so that every individual can have their own printing press. We don't hold them responsible because they are not responsible for the actions of their users (oh, and there's also this thing called section 230).

          You want to make individuals part of some larger organization that you can attach a label to, lump together, and hold responsible (or sue, arrest, whatever). Whether it is Techdirt-koolaid-drinking-commenters or filthy-job-killing-pirates, you need to be able to label someone as part of a larger group instead of accepting each as an individual.

          It's a pervasive viewpoint. Corporations want specific demographics they can focus group and market to. Music labels want artists that make music that can be categorized into specific genres, packaged on a disc, put in a shiny box, shrinkwrapped, then sold. Same for movies.

          It doesn't work that way anymore. Its doubtful it ever did. There are no lines in the sand - if there were, the Internet whirlwind has blown them all away. We're all just individual grains floating in the wind.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          Gwiz (profile), 7 Mar 2011 @ 2:23pm

          Re: Re: Re: AC support for Russian censorship

          Technology is like a printing press, publication is the magazine. The software is a printing press, the resulting content on the domain is the magazine.

          I disagree. When talking about unsolicited comments and such, yes, the software is the printing press. But, the "publisher" is still the original author not the website owner. The website is the library holding all the "published" comments.

          Why do we not hold internet publishers responsible on the same level?

          We do. Individuals are still responsible for their comments. We just don't hold the librarian responsible.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Oak Truncheon (profile), 16 Mar 2011 @ 1:32pm

      Re:

      You have chosen your profile name well.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Joe Publius, 7 Mar 2011 @ 7:05am

    Russian History, in Brief

    Russia's history of social liberty has always felt to me like a revolving door of oppressors. Okrana, Cheka, KGB, FSB; the names may be different, but the objectives and the methods barely change.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    androidhelpersdotcom (profile), 7 Mar 2011 @ 7:08am

    Wow #1, you must really try to troll that hard.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      :Lobo Santo (profile), 7 Mar 2011 @ 7:11am

      Re:

      I, for one, found it to be a well-written bit of fallacy. Several could-be-true statements followed by a well written opinion-stated-as-fact. At this the AC who penned it took some time to do a good job.

      ;-P

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Joe Publius, 7 Mar 2011 @ 7:16am

      Ready to be convinced otherwise.

      To be honest, I'm not trying to troll. I am very willing to be disabused of my idea.

      At the same time, I can't ignore the history of things. It is a nation that for a long time now has a some apparatus of social control in active operation. Now, I really should backpedal a bit, and say that the scale of that control has definitely varied depending on the times. Aruging that the operations of the Troikas is the is the same thing as a bunch of pro-government bloggers would be pretty off, but at the same time the group in power is trying to prevent any real politcal discourse that they would find detrimental.

      Let me revise my previous statement:

      Russia's history of civil liberty has always felt to me like a revolving door of oppressors. Okrana, Cheka, KGB, FSB; the names may be different, and the methods vary, but the objectives are the same, to actively control political dissent.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Richard (profile), 7 Mar 2011 @ 7:51am

        Re: Ready to be convinced otherwise.

        Yes I remember the dolls you could buy when I was in Moscow (during the Yeltsin years)

        Inside Yeltsin was Gorbachev, inside him Brezhnev, then Kruschev, Stalin, Lenin, Nicholas 2, Peter, Ivan...

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    cj, 7 Mar 2011 @ 7:52am

    Nothing new

    All the major player Countries (including the USA) have their ways of dealing with bloggers, news outlets, and comments. See here: http://www.bradblog.com/?p=8351 Instead of "school of bloggers" in the USA it is called "surreptitious sabotage campaign" or the "disinformation campaign"

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Matthew A. Sawtell (profile), 7 Mar 2011 @ 1:04pm

    So... Russia finally catching up to P.R. China?

    Find it amusing that Putin is finally pulling out pages of the CCP's 50 Cent Playbook to handle spin. Yet, I tend to think about an article that John Dvorak wrote:

    http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2381211,00.asp

    This may be worse than trying to make Russia a "Dry Nation".

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Pickle Monger (profile), 7 Mar 2011 @ 2:49pm

    the more things change, the more they stay the same... (sigh)

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    harryo (profile), 9 Mar 2011 @ 8:10am

    I find this approach to be interesting (and distressing), since attempting to hold a whole website responsible for the content posted would severely inconvenience all the users and operators through enforcement of the owners' self-censorship.

    However, holding authors responsible for the content which they post also has the downside of producing chilling effects against the wider community of users, especially if certain "poison" content is injected by a user.

    So both approaches suck.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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