MOSCOW, March 23. /TASS/. The Russian Investigative Committee has announced that deliberately spreading fake information regarding the scale of the coronavirus pandemic in Russia can entail a fine of up to 3 million rubles ($37,320).
The committee said, "a probe was launched in Moscow on counts of Russia’s Criminal Code article 237 part 1 (distortion of information about developments, facts, or phenomena endangering human life or health) and article 128.1 part 4 (defamation that a person is suffering from a disease dangerous to others) in light of fake news spread regarding the number of people who contracted the coronavirus (COVID-19) in Russia to instigate panic."
Article 237 part 1 stipulates that the perpetrator can be either fined up to 300,000 rubles ($3,700) or two years of community service with possible imprisonment, while the second article increases the fine by ten times. So, those guilty of violating article 128.1 part 4 can face the 3 million ruble ($37,320) or their income for the past three years. As an alternative, up to 400 hours of community service can be ordered.
Earlier on Monday, the Russian Interior Ministry put forward a warning that publishing fake news regarding the coronavirus can entail both administrative and criminal punishments. "Administrative punishment is stipulated for spreading deliberately false and socially important information in mass media outlets and on the Internet disguised as true and correct reports that endanger public order and security. Moreover, provocations in public spaces by creators of such content (prankers - TASS) can contain elements of the crime outlined in the Russian Criminal Code’s article 213 (Hooliganism) which can lead to criminal punishment," the ministry said.
The agency urged citizens to be careful about information published on the Internet and in messengers and be guided by official sources.
At the same time, the Interior Ministry has repeatedly refuted various news about coronavirus that is regularly emerging on the Internet. For instance, the Krasnoyarsk, Kursk and certain other regions were recently hit by the fake news that police will fine parents of children who will turn up unattended in public spaces. The Lipetsk Region was struck by messengers publishing false reports that traffic police had cordoned off all entrances to Lipetsk due to a two-week quarantine. The police has twice rebutted information that Moscow was shut down for entry. On March 20, head of the state center for updating the public on the coronavirus situation in the country Alexei Goreslavsky announced that the center daily identifies five-six campaigns to spread false reports on the Internet about the infection, discovering up to fifty pieces of new that can be considered fakes per day. According to him, it is mostly mindless reposts in Internet communities and most often in messenger groups.
Removing false content
Based on the demands of the General Prosecutor’s office, Russia’s Internet watchdog on March 20 demanded that certain mass media outlets and administration of YouTube, VK and Instagram take down the false information about the coronavirus. On Monday, the watchdog said that all sources apart from YouTube and Instagram had complied with the demand.