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Russian watchdog vows messengers bill won’t mean ‘control over private correspondence’

May 25, 15:02 UTC+3 INNOPOLIS

On May 24, a bill on regulating the operations of instant messaging services was submitted to Russia’s lower house of parliament

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© Mikhail Tereshenko/TASS

INNOPOLIS/Tatarstan/, May 25. /TASS/. A bill on instant messenger services will not stipulate any control over a private individual’s correspondence, head of Russian telecom watchdog, Alexander Zharov, told reporters on Thursday.

"I fully support the approach to regulating messengers, I want to stress that we have always insisted that this should in no way involve control over citizens’ correspondence. Only the fact of an individual’s correspondence should be registered," Zharov differentiated.

On Wednesday, a bill on regulating the operations of instant messaging services was submitted to Russia’s lower house of parliament, the State Duma. The initiative was authored by Deputy Chairman of the State Duma Committee on Information Policy Marina Mukabenova, and MPs Oleg Nikolayev and Alexander Yuschenko. The proposed legislation was drafted by the Russian Media-Communication Union.

According to the bill, messengers may be blocked in line with a decision by any government agency taken based on a court’s verdict. The services will have to ensure the transmission of messages of only those users, who have undergone an identification procedure.

The procedure will be stipulated by the government. Accordingly, if the currently proposed legislation is violated, individuals could be fined 3,000 or 5,000 rubles ($53-88), while officials and legal entities may face fines of up to 50,000 rubles ($888) and 1 million rubles ($17,700), respectively.

Earlier in the day, the Russian business daily Vedomosti wrote that the telecom watchdog has asked the popular web messenger Telegram to provide information in order to be included in a special registry. If the company fails to respond, the messenger service will be blocked. If Telegram provides information and the watchdog includes it in the registry, the company will have to store and share correspondence of its users and cryptographic keys upon the demand of law enforcement agencies. Vedomosti referred to a copy of the watchdog's letter sent to Telegram.

Telegram is a popular messenger supported by Russian entrepreneur Pavel Durov, which has 100,000,000 monthly active users, according to the company. Some 350,000 new users sign up each day and 15 billion messages are delivered daily.

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