In a slate of bills intended to reinforce antiterrorism legislation, the Russian parliament held a second reading of statutes that would tighten state control of media. Reporters Without Borders reported the latest version of a telecommunications bill would subject bloggers to the same monitoring as news media outlets.
The bill underwent significant change in committee since its first introduction on April 15. If the Duma, Russia’s parliament, adopts the bill as it is now, blogs and social networks that see more than 3,000 page views per day will be subject to the same regulations as news media. That would subject them to oversight by the Roskomnadzor, the country’s communications supervisory agency. agency.
“Like previous reforms, this bill’s sole aim is to increase control over online content. At a time when independent media are facing an unprecedented offensive, this is likely to reduce the space for free debate even further,” wrote Johann Bihr, the head of RSF’s Easter Europe and Central Asia desk, in an online statement. “The long list of new prohibitions offers many new possibilities for censoring bloggers when most problems could be solved under existing legislation.”
The bill is the first to define the term “blogger” as “a person who posts open information on a personal page” that accrues 3,000 page views or more a day, RSF reports. This bill would also extend to micro blogs and social networks.
The bill also holds the newly defined bloggers to standards similar to journalists, including requirements to confirm the accuracy of the information in posts, to respect electoral law and to eliminate swearwords. Using these mediums to falsify or hide information from the government or harm the reputation of another citizen will also be illegal.
Bloggers will not only be responsible for their content, but will also be forced to monitor the accuracy of statements made in comment sections. The compensation provided by the bill for the extra monitoring is the right to make money from hosting ads.
Owners of the accounts that are forced to register as a result of the new law will have to give up anonymity and supply their surname, initials and email addresses to field complaints. If a site fails to do so, they could face a fine up to 300,000 rubles (U.S. $8,500) depending on it is operated by a person or a company. Additional fines will apply if a site continues to withhold this information.
Roskomnadzor will also force bloggers to hold account history for up to six months and hand it over to authorities on request.