Russia: New Internet laws against fake news and insult

Invented information and denigration of state power on the Internet should be punished in Russia in the future. The bills are so vague that critics see the freedom of expression even more threatened.

The upper chamber of the Russian parliament, the Federation Council, passed two legislative amendments on Wednesday. On the one hand, the distribution of reports that are not truthful, "fake news", should be criminalized on the Net, and on the other, irreverence towards society and representatives of Russian state power and their symbols on the Internet should be punished.

The Presidential Human Rights Council had previously called for rejection of both projects and for the Parliament's lower house, the Duma, to revise them once more.

Like human rights organizations, the panel had warned against inaccuracies in the laws that made abusive practices possible - for example, to shut down Kremlin-critical Internet media, bloggers or opponents, or suppress unpleasant statements, for example in the event of disasters. Terms such as "false news" and defamation are vaguely worded in Russian legal texts.

Pressure is rising

On Sunday, around 15,000 people, many of them older, had demonstrated in the center of Moscow for freedom on the Internet. They see their space gradually cropped. There were dozens of cases against Internet users, judgments against those who shared critical mail about Russia's actions in Ukraine. They are accused of extremism.

Until 2012, the Russian network was uncontrolled. But then tens of thousands took to the streets because of electoral fraud on the Duma elections, organizing themselves over the Internet. Since then, the pressure of the authorities increases: The Russian media supervision Roskomnadzor blocks every day alone 1300 pages.

High fines

The government and the presidential office had repeatedly made it clear that they are still behind the new legislation. In parliament, the state party United Russia holds the majority of seats.

The Duma revised the texts once again during their deliberations: After that, not only the police and the media regulatory authority Roskomnadzor can close pages with problematic content, but also a court has to be brought in. In addition, the authority must ask the operators to delete the contents.

At the same time, the deputies increased the planned fines drastically to 30,000 rubles up to 100,000 rubles, the equivalent of 400 to 1300 euros, for private individuals alone. Anyone who behaves disrespectfully to the state authorities online threatens up to 15 days in jail.

Now President Vladimir Putin has to sign the adjustments, which is considered safe.

Autistic Runet?

Russian state broadcasters themselves repeatedly caused a stir with reports that did not take the truth too seriously, especially at the height of the war in eastern Ukraine.

But also in election campaigns propaganda channels were active: French President Emmanuel Macron had criticized in the presence of President Putin, as the transmitter Sputnik and RT, formerly Russia Today, had tried to influence the election campaign with untruths to his detriment.

The Duma is currently drafting a third internet law. It provides for the decoupling of the internet in Russia from the international infrastructure. The data traffic should therefore only be routed through its own, national server - the Runet should be so self-sufficient. Roskomnadsor should then control the servers. According to the plans, there will shortly be a test run, which should show how exactly a decoupling could work.

ref: spiegel