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Russian president formulates state’s policy on the Internet

April 25, 2014, 19:44 UTC+3 Alexandrova Lyudmila

MOSCOW, April 25. /ITAR-TASS/. State policy regarding Internet regulation formulated by Russian President Vladimir Putin means that it has addressed to problems of the information sphere in earnest, Russian experts believe. The president is confident that Russian bloggers must be as responsible for their statements as mass media, while servers that keep information on Russian users must be located in Russia. He has called the Internet “a CIA project”.

Addressing 400 reporters from 85 regions of the country at a media forum on Thursday, the president expressed his view on amendments to law On Information passed by the State Duma lower house on Tuesday, which practically equaled popular bloggers to mass media. Making it clear that he supported the high-profile law, the president warned however against “excesses”.

Deputies, who had developed the bill on bloggers, pledged that they meant no equating them with media. The president voiced a different opinion. “If a concrete person has influence on thousands of people, on dozens of thousands, this blog does not differ much from mass media. It works with thousands of people, maybe dozens or even hundreds of thousands. What is it then if not media?” he said.

The law that sparked a wave of protests in the Internet community and among human rights activists prescribes the procedure of “de-anonymization” of popular bloggers as well defines their responsibilities. In the amount of restrictions they will be equaled with media, however, without getting the rights of journalists as to access to information. Not only a writing user will be recognized as popular blogger, but anyone who produces a hit content and has more than 3,000 unique visitors a day. The head of the presidential council for human rights, Mikhail Fedotov, appealed to Federation Council Speaker Valentina Matviyenko with the request to reject the bill on bloggers, as it “does not meet the realities of the Internet, and in some provision is at variance with legal and technical nature of Internet network”. Fedotov suggested subjecting the law to broad public consultations.

Bloggers are obliged to post “reliable” information, while they have neither editorial staff nor the right to demand replies from officials to their requests, renowned blogger Oleg Kozyrev has stressed, in particular. “Another instrument of putting pressure on that part of bloggers who write about major events emerges. The only aim of the law is to go on with restrictions on the Russian Internet,” the Nezavisimaya daily quotes him as saying.

Vladimir Putin also mentioned a provision on storage and protection of information from the anti-terrorist package of laws. Reporters noted that servers of websites popular on Russian Internet were in the United States. Commenting on that, the president said the servers must be moved to Russia, to “protect information”. He said the main flow of data was going through the servers situated in the US, where everything was controlled. “All this [the Internet] emerged as a special project of the US CIA, and is developing as such,” he said. “This is a kind of information confrontation. It has always existed, and now it is acquiring new forms on new technological infrastructure,” he said.

The largest in Russia search engine Yandex was launched as a project with western influence, according to him. Developers of anti-terrorist internet amendments to the legislation told the RBC Daily that not only servers were to be moved to Russia, but global Internet companies would have to register their subsidiary companies in Russia. One of the novelties is the demand to Internet services - social network services, blog hosting and forums — to store metadata (information on the facts of reception and transmission of messages, but not the messages themselves) of users in Russia within half-a-year. The head of the State Duma committee for information policy, Alexei Mitrofanov, specified that this implied a demand to global companies in Russia to have their registered offices in the country.

American Google (which owns YouTube video hosting) and Microsoft (which owns Skype) already have their offices in Russia. However, Twitter (having 11.6 million Russian users a month), Facebook (25.4 million users) and the Instagram social network service it owns manage their resources from the US.

“The state has addressed itself to problems of the information sphere in earnest,” the president of the Institute for National Strategy, Mikhail Remizov, told ITAR-TASS. According to him, the law on bloggers has sparked a negative reaction not only among opposition bloggers, but also among patriotically-oriented ones. “Bloggers have got commitments without rights, and this is understood as injustice,” he said. As for the problem of information security, less dependence on the West, Remizov believes it is topical and difficult. He believes the Internet cannot be controlled, but it can be influenced. “The authorities have all chances to benefit on the web content,” he added.


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