Russia: Old and new in online censorship

By EDRi · September 12, 2012

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Deutsch: [Russland: Altes und Neues in Sachen Internet-Zensur |]

A new Russian law intended to protect minors from “harmful” content
entered into force on 1 September 2012 bringing forth confusion and, at
the same time, hilarious and even dangerous results.

“The law’s vagueness and inconsistencies render its repressive
provisions even more threatening and are encouraging journalists to
censor themselves. The vague definition of ’harmful content’ leaves too
much room for interpretation and increases the probability of
overblocking. As defined, the requirement to put age ban labels on
content is absurd and dangerous. On the grounds of protecting minors,
this law is likely to place serious obstacles on the media’s ability to
provide the public with general news coverage. We urge parliament to
clarify this law and to strike out those provisions that violate the
constitution and international agreements that Russia has ratified,”
stated Reporters Without Borders said.

Under the final version of the law, the media must prevent children from
seeing content that contains violence, sex or rude words or content
encouraging them to smoke or drink alcohol. Vladimir Pikov, the
spokesman of Roskomnadzor (the Federal Service for Supervision in the
Sphere of Telecom, Information Technologies and Mass Communications),
said on 29 August 2012 that, with the exception of news agencies, all
online media had to place age bans on their content. Moreover, Pikov
stated that when it was complicated to place a ban label to individual
articles, then the entire website had to be labelled.

This has led to cases when online media representatives decided to label
their entire site in order to avoid any risk.

A Russian channel will censor “The Simpsons” cartoon series banning
scenes of violence, drinking, and smoking before 11 pm. “Under the new
law we cannot show ‘The Itchy & Scratchy Show’ from ‘The Simpsons’
before 11 pm”, said general director Lev Makarov.

Moreover, the majority party of the Russian Parliament has announced the
intention to introduce new amendments to the libel law to find and
punish those posting anonymous insults on the Internet.

Russia amended the law on libel during this spring adding harsh new
administrative punishments for defamation. In October 2011, the Upper
House Commission for Development of Civil Society approved a draft law
“Against Internet Extremism,” suggesting all postings on the Internet
are public and thus, Internet libel would be punished with sentences of
up to five years in prison just as the mass-media libel.

“The law already includes the norms providing responsibility for
journalists – both the media companies and authors. But what shall we do
if some anonymous user makes insulting statements? We will consider the
questions connected with legislation improvement in this direction so
that anonymity no longer gives such people the illusion of impunity,”
said deputy speaker of the Lower House and member of the Culture
Committee Sergey Zheleznyak.

This new amendment will allow police officers to find the identity of
anonymous libels and, according to Zheleznyak, it will apply to Internet
users, not just journalists.

Major threat to news coverage from law “protecting minors” online

Russia To Censor ‘South Park’ and ‘The Simpsons’ (30.08.2012)

United Russia mulls amendments to track anonymous Internet slanderers