More control over the Internet wanted in Russia

By EDRi · May 7, 2008

(Dieser Artikel ist auch in deutscher Sprache verfügbar)

The Russian prosecutor’s office wants to extend the anti-extremism laws to
the Internet, proposing an amendment to the rules that presently govern
printed media on the basis of which newspapers considered by the court to
have published extremist material can be shut down.

In terms of the new proposal, which began circulating in the State Duma’s
Security Committee on 10 April 2008, any kind of material considered
extremist or website deemed to have hosted extremist material should be
blocked by ISPs. If found guilty of repeatedly hosting extremist materials,
the website will be shut down. A list of extremist Internet-based materials
and sites must be regularly made available and the ISPs will be bound to
stop hosting these sites.

The proposal asks from law-makers to clearly delineate “what is unacceptable
on the internet in terms of public morality, public safety and
anti-extremist legislation” and to “place responsibility for the
dissemination of any such materials on those who furnish space for it.”

“We are speaking about the self-controlling of the providers and
telecommunications companies” said Aleksey Zhafyarov, the deputy head of
Directorate supervising enforcement of laws on federal security, interethnic
relations and countering extremism.

Internet is considered too free by the Russian governors. Alexander Torshin,
the vice-speaker of the Federation Council, has painted a very dark image of
the Internet believing it is “a means of terror propaganda” that can
be considered “the academy of terrorism.” In his opinion, terrorists use the
Internet to “practically propagandize their ideas in the open, recruiting
new adherents, buying up weapons and munitions, (and) communicating with one
another.” He said that lawmakers should “work out unified identifying
criteria for terrorist websites, formulate techniques to expose them and
constantly monitor their activities, nationally and internationally, and
also (work out) the means to close these sites.”

The proposal has created concerns related to the abuses that such a law
might bring forth. “It is difficult to find anyone who is not against
extremism but it depends on how the law is used. The government uses (it)
selectively” said Oleg Panfilov, director of the Centre of Journalism in
Extreme Situations. There have been cases when blogs and websites belonging
to the opposition have been shut down after having been labelled as
extremist. For example the news website was warned for using
extremist materials last year after it wrote about cartoons that satirised
the prophet Mohammed.

Even some of the Russian lawmakers have doubts about the usefulness of any
new measures to control the Internet. “We tighten the screws and the
situation only gets worse” said Gennady Gudkov, the deputy chairman of the
State Duma Security Committee.

Critics also believe that there is enough control already and law
enforcement agencies have the means to shut down Internet providers as in
the case of the 10 ISPs who were shut down by St. Petersburg prosecutors on
14 April 2008 for hosting extremist content.

Since the beginning of this year, the pressure to regulate the Internet has
increased in Russia. In January, Russia’s Parliament began work on a law “On
the Internet,” that should create a legal framework to deal with online
matters. In February, Vladimir Slutsker, a Federation Council delegate,
introduced a draft normative act that will force all Internet sites with
more than a thousand daily visitors to register as mass-media outlets. There
is also a project currently in the State Duma that would limit foreign
investment in the telecommunications and internet industries.

On 25 April 2008 Russia’s lower house of Parliament, the State Duma, passed,
nearly unanimously, an amendment to the law on mass-media, in its first
reading, giving greater powers to authorities to shut down media outlets.
The new law forbids using a registered media source to spread “false facts
that discredit the honour and dignity of another entity, or undermine their

Russian prosecutors eye Internet censorship (23.04.2008)

Russian Prosecutors Present Draft Law to Regulate Internet (12.04.2008)

Lawmakers in Russia Recommend Internet Regulation (18.04.2008)

Russian Authorities Gain Powers to Shut Down Media (25.04.2008)

Russian Prosecutors Ask Parliament to Regulate Internet Content (18.03.2008)

EDRI-gram: Russian Government wants to control all WiFi devices (23.04.2008)