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Lawmakers propose tighter grip on world web in Russia

December 08, 2014, 16:17 UTC+3 Alexandrova Lyudmila
©  ITAR-TASS/Denis Vyshinskiy

MOSCOW, December 8. /TASS/. The army of enthusiasts eager “to put the world web in order” keeps growing. Under a bill just submitted to the State Duma by the legislature of North Ossetia, out-of-court decisions to block websites may be applicable to any Internet resource. The legislators in Russia’s constituent republic in the North Caucasus have proposed amendments to the law On Information that lists the prohibited domain names and sites in the Internet to complement it with resources containing extremist content and also material inciting racial, ethnic and religious hatred or hostility towards any social group.

The North Ossetian legislators argue that the existing control mechanisms fail to provide effective countermeasures against such information flows, which, they say “are often tantamount to targeted media intervention.”

In the meantime, on February 1, 2013, Russia introduced a law permitting out-of-court blocking of websites containing calls for massive unrest, extremist activities and participation in unauthorized mass activities. And at the end of last June another newly-effective law established prison terms for financing extremism and posting extremist calls in the Internet.

Just recently a newly-devised package of anti-terrorist laws introduced, alongside other measures, a special register of bloggers with a readership of over three thousand, who can no longer stay anonymous and must follow the same rules as the mass media.

The list of resources to be blocked includes websites containing pornographic images of minors, information about the production, acquisition and abuse of narcotic drugs, and also ways and means of committing suicide.

Russian President Vladimir Putin on October 1 told the Security Council that the state had no intention of putting Internet under control. “We are not going to restrict access to the world web, put it under total control of the authorities, restrict the legal interests and opportunities of individuals, non-governmental organizations, or businesses in the media sphere,” he said.

At the same time Putin stressed the need for “improving the legal mechanisms of controlling content flows in the Internet.”

The North Ossetian legislators’ idea has met with a cool response from the public at large. “If the bill is passed and signed into law, very strong censorship will begin to be applied to news sites - for instance, Ukrainian ones, and also to the social networks, forums and blogs, where visitors feel free to pour one’s heart out in very certain terms,” says the daily Nezavisimaya Gazeta.

The director of the IT Research and Expertise Centre at the Russian Academy of the National Economy and Public Administration, Mikhail Braude-Zolotaryov, says the legislative control of the Internet is already excessive. “From the standpoint of society’s development these measures are not effective at all,” he told TASS. “They may pursue selected targets, and this is the worst risk of all. Some Internet resources may begin to be blocked, and others, not.”

Braude-Zolotaryov believes that the Internet is only a tiny aspect of life and it rather reflects the existing problems than is a source of risks itself: “A society that cannot protect its children in real life has launched a virtual crusade in the Internet.” He is certain that the existing laws that address issues existing in real life are more than enough. More legal acts concerning the way life is reflected in the cyber space would be redundant.

Also, it remains to be seen, says Braude-Zolotaryov, who is to be appointed responsible for enforcing laws and formulating criteria. “If all laws that the legislators may adopt are strictly followed, a large share of the international and Russian segments of the Internet will be blocked and the network itself sterilized,” he concluded.


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