Russia Orders Bloggers To 'Register'; Outlaws Anonymous Blogging, Continues Clampdown On Social Media
from the where-will-it-end? dept
As we've reported, Russia has been steadily trying to bring the Internet under control with ever-more stringent measures. After tackling general Web sites through powers that allow them to be blocked more easily, it now seems to be the turn of the bloggers, as this report from the ITAR-TASS News Agency on a recently-approved law explains:
The law introduces a new term: "Internet user called blogger." Bloggers will be obliged to declare their family name and initials and e-mail address. Those authors whose personal website or page in social networks has 3,000 visitors or more a day must have themselves registered on a special list and abide by restrictions applicable to the mass media. In other words, registration requires the blogger should check the authenticity of published information and also mention age restrictions for users. Also, bloggers will have to follow mass media laws concerning electioneering, resistance to extremism and the publication of information about people’s private lives. An abuse of these requirements will be punishable with a fine of 10,000 to 30,000 rubles (roughly $300 to $1,000) for individuals and 300,000 rubles ($10,000) for legal entities. A second violation will be punishable with the website's suspension for one month.
Clearly those onerous conditions are designed to make any blogger think twice or three times before publishing anything at all controversial or embarrassing for the authorities. The article notes that the new law may be challenged before Russia's Constitutional Court, and that there's a huge loophole in the form of blogs located overseas, which are not covered by the legislation. The fear has to be that the Russian government will now move on to blocking them too. Moreover, not content with intimidating independent blogs, the Russian authorities also seem to be tightening their grip on VKontakte, the Russian Facebook. As Ars Technica reports:
Pavel Durov, the founder of Vkontakte (VK) -- the largest social network in Russia -- said on Tuesday that he fled the country one day after being forced out of the company, claiming that he felt threatened by Kremlin officials.
His removal is probably connected with his longstanding refusal to censor content on VKontakte:
In a post on his profile page on Monday, Durov explained that he was fired from his position as CEO of VK and that the so-called "Russian Facebook" is now "under the complete control" of two oligarchs close to President Vladimir Putin.
Durov explained that after seven years of relative social media freedom in Russia, his refusal to share user data with Russian law enforcement has set him at odds with the Kremlin, which has recently been trying to tighten its grip on the Internet, according to The Moscow Times.
What's sad here is that, as we've noted ruefully before, in the wake of revelations about NSA and GCHQ spying, the West is no longer in a position to criticize this kind of censorship and surveillance. As the latest moves indicate, the Russian authorities seem intent on taking full advantage of that fact.
VK's former CEO says that despite his multiple refusals of Kremlin requests to censor his site in a similar fashion to how it filters print and TV news, the site -- which boasts 143 million registered users globally, 88 million of whom are based in Russia -- is now effectively under state control.