Overview of Russian Internet regulations


Russia introduces law on "Right to be Forgotten" 


The Russian president has signed into force the law on "Right to be Forgotten" - that orders all internet search engines to delete links leading to spurious or dated information about Russian citizens should they request it. 

The law has been criticized as being too sweepin compared the the EU’s Right To Be Forgotten, which itself has come under criticism. The Russian law doesn’t require that actual links be identified for removal, simply that citizens can object to content in general and ask search engines to somehow remove all of it. The law also only removes links in search engines, not from hosting websites.

Russia’s biggest search engine, Yandex, had previously objected to the law. Despite changes, Yandex is quoted by AFP as still having major issues:“Our attempts to introduce some crucial amendments to this bill have unfortunately been unsuccessful,” Yandex said in a statement.

“Our point has always been that a search engine cannot take on the role of a regulatory body and act as a court or law enforcement agency,” it said.

“We believe that information control should not limit access to information that serves the public interest. The private interest and the public interest should exist in balance,” the firm said.

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Bitcoin websites are blocked in Russia 

A number of Russian websites publishing information on cryptocurrency (bitcoin) this week were added to the blacklist by Roscomnadzor, and were subsequently blocked.  The following websites were claimed to have restrictedcontent:

 bitcoin.orgindacoin.comcoinspot.ruhasbitcoin.rubitcoinconf.rubitcoin.itbtcsec.com 

The decision was made by the Nevyanskii court of Sverdlovskaya Oblast. As stated in the court decision, according to Russian Federation legislation, the official currency in the territory of the Russian Federation is the ruble.  Usage of other currencies and any financial surrogates is prohibited in Russia. In this case, all cryptocurrencies including Bitcoin are considered illegal in Russia, as they support a shadow economy and therefore may not be used by citizens or organizations in the Russian Federation.  The Roscomsvoboda project has published the full court decision on its website. 

You are not Charlie Hebdo: Roscomnadzor warns Russian media about religious extremism.

On the eve of Media Day, the professional holiday of journalists in Russia, Kamchatka’s department of Roscomnadzor has sent out official letters to all local media with a warning regarding “prohibited publishing of any comic portraits of religious leaders in mass media”. One of the local journalists, Vladimir Efimov, has published this letter on his Facebook page.  A Roscomnadzor representative, Maria Smetankina, who was sending out this letter  has commented that this is the  official position of Roscomnadzor regarding the recent terrorist attack at the Charlie Hebdo office in Paris. Roscomnadzor also recommended that media refrain from publishing any references or links to foreign media or any other sites promoting comic images of religious leaders.  This letter was sent out to all magazines, newspapers, radio and TV stations, and online media.  Violation of this recommendation will be considered  a violation of the Russian law on Extremism.  Roscomnadzor press secretary Vladimir Ampelonskii has commented that this was a preliminary measure/warning to avoid violations of the Extremism law.

Earlier, Chechnya president Ramzan Kadyrov was speaking against religious comic pictures, which offend the religious feelings of Muslim people.  Russian ex-oligarch and now-political activist Mikhail Khodorkovsky was appealing to Russian media to join the international campaign for human rights, and also to publish protest pictures with “Je suis Charlie” on their covers.  In response to that, Ramzan Kadrov has called Mikhail Khodorkovsky “an enemy to all Muslims.”  As he has written on his Instagram profile “We will not let anyone insult Mohammed, even if it costs us our lives. Muslim people never publish pictures of Mohammed, never portray him in movies.  But if we  remain silent, that doesn’t matter - we can raise millions of people to protest against those who don’t respect our religion”.  Ramzan Kadyrov has also claimed that “Echo Moskvy” editor Alexey Venedictov  has insulted Muslim people by publishing a poll on whether Mohammed images should be allowed to be published in media.  Russian vice prime minister Dmitry Rogozin also has spoken out against religious pictures in media: “Terrorism is evil and cannot be justified, but we cannot replace freedom of speech with the freedom to insult people’s religious feelings.”

 

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Intel turns off Russian blogs and forums because of the Bloggers' law

Intel has placed an announcement about the deactivation of several functions on its official web site, due to recent Russian legislation changes.

As of January 1st 2015, due to the “Bloggers’ law”, the following features will be not available on Russian version of Intel Developer Zone:

·         Blog publications in Russian language

·         Russian forums

·         Comments on Russian language content

These changes do not apply to the English language versions of Intel’s web site.

As an alternative, Intel recommends its users join other online communities, such as:

Intel blog on Habrahabr

Intel DZ group in Vkontakte network

Intel DC webpage in Google+

It should be mentioned that all of the aforementioned resources have already experienced legal problems with Russian governmental legislation as well.

The Geek Times web portal has reported that they received a comment from an Intel representative that Intel was not able to meet all of the Russian government demands in time and had to switch these services off.  However, these forums may be restored at a future date.

As Geek Times states, Intel Developer Zone was obviously not interested in complying with the new Russian law and opted to shut down its services instead. These measures will be unpleasant news for many Russian and CIS users who are used to discussing technical information in their native language on those forums.


Earlier this year, Geek Times reported that Roscomnadzor’s deputy director deleted his microblog in Twitter when a number of his readers increased to more than 3000. (According to the Blogger’s law, every user who has over 3000 visitors of his web site should be registered as a media entity)

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Google shuts down its engineering facilities in Russia

 This week the Russian newspaper Vedomosti  has reported that Google has confirmed its recall of engineering services from Russia without explaining the reasons for the decision.  “Google values its users and customers very much, and our Russian team is here to work for them” a company representative said.

 

An anonymous source quoted by Vedomosti commented that this decision can be attributed to the current situation in Russia with its complex legislation, and to difficulties in Russian–US relations, which have recently become very cold.

 

There is no information yet on whether Google is planning to shut down its Russian office, but according to Vedomosti, Google plans to continue increasing its investments in Russia in 2015.

 

This information was confirmed by the Financial Times, and by Bloomberg Information agencies.  According to Bloomberg, Google’s decision is a result of recent changes in Russian law, requiring foreign companies to store Russian users’ personal data in Russia. The Financial Times underlines that Google has not officially commented on that decision, and it is not clear whether there was any specific pressure on Google from the Russian government.  

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Whitelists and further discussion on Internet  content-blocking

On Dec 2nd, the Safe Internet League in Moscow, during their press event announced to Russian journalists their new recommendations for government regulation.

The League is recommending mobile telecom companies be required to use specific technical equipment to pre-filter information on the Internet.  Free access will be limited to only those resources that are on to “whitelists”.

Safe Internet League director Denis Davydov suggests that this will be a beneficial for parental control – to protect children from harmful Internet content (the Initiative is recommended as an amendment to the existing Child Protection Law).  According to the League experts, this tool will be very useful for Russian schools, which should have safe educational environments and be protected from harmful external content.

According to the League, content-filtering would be implemented by mobile telecom companies, and will allow automatic real-time identification of content classification, and block it if the content is considered ‘harmful’.

 “There is a great amount of resources on the Internet that can harm children.  According to our statistics, only 5% of parents use Parental Control tools, and we cannot afford to lose our younger generation” Davydov says.  (the first time the idea of content pre-filtration was recommended, it was by Russian legislator Elena Mizulina, who was also the author of the Child Protection Act – after which online users filed an online petition (with over 100 thousand signatures) to have her mental health  examined).

Previous actions by the League to protect users from the Internet were focused on identification and deletion of all sorts of negative content (by user request) including child pornography, copyright violations, hate speech, and extremism.

Last year the League sent a complaint to the Russian General Prosecutor about Yandex and Google, for allowing advertising for abortion services in their search results.  Search engines are just businesses, commented  Davydov, they do not care about moral values or even Russian laws. Their work needs to be monitored and regulated. 

The League has identified over 96 Internet resources containing information on sexual services, and has sent requests to Roscomnadzor to block them.

Davydov also spoke about “cyber–volunteers” who help the League in their mission, who have helped to identify serious criminals, pedophiles and extremists.

The RAEC (the Russian Internet Association) has criticized many League recommendations, pointing out the high financial cost of the project, the low effectiveness and negative side-effects.

The day after Davydov’s PR speech, the Safe Internet League’s website experienced heavy DDOS attacks, the heaviest they had ever seen.

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Runet Filtering to be Implemented 

Before the end of 2014, the Russian state Duma plans to approve a number of amendments to the Child Protection Law. These amendments request all Internet providersto install specific equipment to filter all traffic. Those companies which are unable to install their own equipment on their servers will be required to pay for pre-filtered content from larger Internet players.

 

The “filtering” initiative was first suggested by Russian legislator Elena Mizulina who is the author of the Child Protection Act.

The second organization lobbying this initiative is the Russian League to Protect the Internet, and its president Denis Davydov.  The primary goal of the League is to fight illegal and dangerous content on RUnet.

The entity implementing this law is the “Ashmanov and Partners” legal firm.

 

All RUnet Industry players have protested against this law, and the RAEC has given an expert evaluation that this ‘filtering’ initiative will cause significant damage to the whole RUnet – not only it will require serious financial investment from providers, which will result  in increased user fees for Internet access, but also it will slow down the speed of Internet services, to say nothing of any violation of users’ rights.  What is also important is that RAEC stated that it’s hard to imagine that such legislation could be implemented without mistakes, since the mechanisms to do so are not verified

The RAEC expert group includes all major Russian and Global Internet Industry players, including mobile operators Megafon, Vympelcom, Rostelecom, Google Russia, Yandex, Microsoft, Ozon, ICANN and many others.

The future of this new initiative, which is now in process of development is yet to be seen.

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Runet economics

The RUnet Economics Study was conducted this year by the Russian Association for Electronic Communications and the Higher School of Economics’  Faculty for Communications, Media and Design.  The report was presented at the Russian Internet Week 2014 conference. 

According to this study, the total volume of Internet markets for 2013 amounted to 1.1 trillion rubles, which equals 1.6 percent of Russia's GDP.  The content and services market amounts to 750 billion rubles, while the e-payments market is worth 350 billion rubles. Internet penetration within Russia, according to data from summer 2014, reached 62%.  Experts think it will likely to reach 76% by 2020.

If the economy declines, a significant number of users will opt for ‘free’ over ‘paid’ content, even if this free content is pirated. Only 21% of users are ready to pay for legal online content.

The Internet industry is growing significantly faster than the Russian economy as a whole.  In 2014, the Internet market is due to grow by 30%. However, increasing stagnation, lack of investment and reduced user purchasing power will also impact the Internet.

According to a scenario of stabilization predicted by participating experts, the average annual growth will reach 15-20%.

The number of people employed in the Internet industry continued to grow.  In 2013 there were 1.2 million people employed, and in 2014 this number increased by an additional 20%. 

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Reviewing RIW (Russian Internet Week) 2014

12-14th of November 2014 Russia hosted “Russian Internet Week,” which was renamed this year from“Russian Interactive Week”, since the media communication union Softool conference and the Money of the Future conference have combined to create this event.  This year RIW welcomed over 20,000  participants and more than 600 speakers.

The event had a number of remarkable panels and discussions; for example, the opening panel, in which the Runet Economics report (conducted by the Russian Association for Electronic Communications and the Higher School of Economics) was presented  by Sergey Plugotarenko (RAEC director) and a New Strategy for Development of Russian Media-Communication Sector through 2025 was announced by Media Communication Union president Sergey Petrov Runet.

The Russian Government has taken an active role in RIW this year.  The Government Section was represented by the Minister of Communications of Russia, the youngest Russian minister, Nikolay Nikiforov, who opened his talk byreading Prime Minister Medvedev’s message.  In this message, Dmitry Medvedev has called RIW a positive stimulus for Internet development in Russia.

Nikolay Nikiforov has announced a number of strategic ideas for the Russian government, such as competing for global market share in collaboration with BRICs countries; and he has listed several ways in which the Russian government is planning to support local online business and product developers.

Another interesting panel was  “How to fight negative information on the Internet” organized by the PR department of the Foundation for Development of Internet Initiatives – a presidential agency.  On this panel, powerful Russian agencies such as Rostelecom and the Ministry of Foreign Relations were presenting their methods to promote PR campaigns in social media, and to resist the information wars. 

The RIW exhibition attracted a number of successful Russian startups and Internet market players. Many informal events and parties, like the “Golden website” awards, “Internet media awards”, and “Alley of Innovators” were held in the course of the 3-day conference.  The only negative fact was, just like last year, was the absence of wi-fi, or even mobile internet access on the event. Organizers explained that it happens every time – since so many attendees  try to log in at the same time, the hotspots get overloaded and fail.

 

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Antipiracy 2.0 - Blocking Websites for Life


On November 24, the President of the Russian Federation signed a new amendment to the Antipiracy Law (187 FZ, which implements new limitations to the Federal Law  24.11.2014, N 364 FZ) regarding “information, information technologies and information protection” and the Civil Code of the Russian Federation. The law will go into effect on May 1st 2015.

According to the new amendments, all copyrights will be extended to all  online copies (except images).  The law allows blocking Internet access after two complaints from copyright owners. The new twist  of this law is that a website can be blocked permanently.

Upon finding illegal content on a website, copyright owner can complain to the Roscomnadzor, Agency, which will notify the service provider within 3 days with a demand to delete the offending content; the service provider then has 1 day to notify the website owner. If the content is not removed by the service provider or website owner, the web resource may thenbe blocked by an upper-tier network provider.

 In the case ofthe illegal content not being deleted in the requested period by the website owner, heavy fines will be levied (up to 500,000 rubles per person, and up to 1M rubles for an organization).

The website owner, according to the new law, is required to provide his personal address  and email address, so that copyright owners may contact him directly. In addition, even regular users posting illegal content online may be fined

Russian Internet experts have strongly criticized this initiative. The representative of the “Pirate’s Party,” NGO Artem Kozluk, has stated that  the legal mechanism is not perfect (the law permits blocking web sites by their IP address); since several independent websites can share the same IP address, other resources unrelated to the pirated content may be blocked as well. “After implementation of this law, all torrent and video platforms can basically be blocked” Sarkis Darbinyan, an Internet lawyer says.  According to the opinion of RAEC experts, this measure gives too much power to government agencies over web resources. With this law, any web site on theInternet can be blocked. Deputy Director of Ivi Online Theater Mikhail Platonov and Vkontakte Director Boris Dobrodeev both consider that the service blocking demanded by this law are too strict.

“This law is unclear  and it’sterminology is not well-defined”  – a Yandex representative says.

Despite the fact that Internet users have filed an online petition, signed by more than 100,000 users on the www.roi.ru website, their opinion was not taken into consideration by lawmakers.

 

 

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IPhones to be restricted in Russia 

Russian legislators can prohibit usage of the iPhone and iPad mobile products in Russia starting from January 1st 2015, states Internet Ombudsman Dmitry Marinichev.  According to his recent statements, the iCloud program is storing users’ data on US Internet servers, which violates  recently adopted laws on the storage of personal data of Russian citizens.

As of January 2015, all personal data of Russian users will be required  to be stored in data centers in  the territory of the Russian Federation.

This limitation will also affect Facebook, Gmail and Twitter, companies which are, according to Russian legislators opinion, supposed to be registered in Russia.

 

“We have sent official notification to all of these companies”  - Maksim Ksenzov (Deputy director of Roscomnadzor) says.  (Earlier this year Mazim Ksenzov was criticized by Russian prime-minister Dmitry Medvedev for his public statement that Russian government can shut down social media, f.e.Twitter). 


According to the new requirements after registering with Roscomnadzor as an “information transporter”, a company is required to save users data for 6 months  in the  territory of Russia (all data, including mails, voice messages, files, images).  Disregarding this request will result in the application of fines. of up to a half million rubles.  If companies do not register, Roscomnadzor will send a second request regarding the violation, which requires capitulation within 15 days.  If companies fail to register within that time, Roscomnadzor may block access to the resource from Russian users. 

 

 

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Russian film-maker Nikita Mikhalkov recommends Putin implementing "Tax on Internet"


Russian Vice-Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov has requested Russian ministries (the Ministry of Culture, the Ministry of Mass Communication, the Ministry of Economic Development, the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Justice) to develop laws for levying taxes for  Online Copyright Violation.

 

Earlier in October, famous Russian film-maker Nikita Mikhalkov (Oscar-winner for “Burnt by the Sun”) has suggested to Vladimir Putin to institute a “global license” for unlimited usage of Copyrighted IP (movies, video, music) available on the Internet.


According to Mikhalkov's suggestion, users would sign an agreement to pay an “atonement fee” to Internet providers for using these types of intellectual property. Financial operations  would also be conducted by organizations representing the copyright owners.


This suggestion would also involve the creation of a publically available resource of copyrighted products, which, according to Mikhalkov's idea would significantly improve the Russian GDP from sales of non-material products  within 2 years of its implementation. 


Internet experts predict that this initiative can significantly increase the cost of Internet use for the common user.


RAEC and major telecom operators have submitted a public Letter of Disagreement to Vladimir Putin regarding this initiative. 


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Can Runet survive without swear words


The Russian State Duma, after a second hearing, has approved the law against usage of swear words in Russian media, on stage, in theatres, books, movies, and on TV and radio.  Books and movies containing swear words as part of artistic expression are requested to be marked with specific symbols and sealed with a plastic cover.

Identification of what is considered to be “swear words” will be performed by an independent commission.  This law was initiated by the Russian Culture committee and United Russia political party.

After the first hearing, this initiative was rejected by the State Duma because of an absence of clear definition of what exactly is considered to be «obscene speech».

According to current status, the violation of this law will require citizens to ppay heavy fines, for a second violation, they could be disqualified from their job for a year. 

Many Russian filmmakers have criticized this law, underlining that “In a country where half of the population use slang (including many lawmakers) it is ridiculous to prohibit its usage.  Russian “mat” is the brightest tool of emotional expression, and this tradition has long historical origins” said Andrey Stempkovsky a Russian film-maker, to Russian newspaper Gazeta.ru.

Stempkovsky has compared the initiative to prohibit MAT in Russia with one of the famous anecdotic phrases used by a participant of Soviet Leningrad-Boston tele-bridge: “There is no sex in the USSR.”

Also, many Russian theatres are now in a very difficult situation, since there are many plays on the modern stage that use “bad” words as a form of artistic expression.

Russian producer Mikhail Ugarov said that this new law goes against copyright law. “As a theatre producer, I cannot change the text written by the author, since that will be a violation of copyright.  Copyright is also regulated by law, and we cannot waive it”.

«The Russian Language is stronger than any law, and it will win in the end» - Ugarov declared.

Russian online media has celebrated the last day of legal swear word usage by posting all types of swear-word jokes on their Social media pages.


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Selfies are dangerous for Russian kids



The Rospotrebnadzor Kursk branch in Russia has reported that the reason for the fast spread of flies among school children was selfie-fashion.  While making a selfie picture teenagers usually put their heads together, which allows flies to be spread, Russian doctors say.  Rospotrebnadzor has issued a brochure, warning school children that making selfies can cause spread of the flies.

It was also mentioned that children who have flies are not allowed to be members of social organizations (like dance, art, sports).


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Scandal around Russian blogger: Journalism ethics on Twitter


A loud scandal in Russian media circles was provoked by the tweet of popular Russian Blogger and Radio host Alexander Plushev.

Plushev was fired from “Echo Moskvy” radio station (its main shareholder is Gazprom-Media)because of his tweet, in which he asked his followers how many of them agree that the death of the son of Mr. Ivanov (the Chief of Putin’s administration) was a “karmic punishment” for his incident with hitting an old woman on a street with his car and avoiding prosecution.  

Plushev: Do you think the death of Ivanov's son, who ran over an old woman with his car and later sued her son-in-law, is proof of the existence of God or some cosmic justice?

Alexander Plushev has written a post with personal excuses later on.

In response to Plushev’s tweet, Russian municipal deputy and activist Maxim Katz complained to the Ekho Moskvy chief editor Aleksey Venediktov in his tweet.

Maxim Katz stated that his action was not about freedom of speech, but rather about journalist responsibility.

The scandal provoked much speculation in the Russian blogosphere and online community about Gazprom-Media control of Echo Moskvy and journalistic ethics and responsibility.

Mikhail Lesin, Head of Gazprom-Media, allegedly made the decision to fire Plushev himself and said his dismissal was “a question of morals,” rather than specifically about the tweet.

According to Kommersant, Gazprom-Media's Lesin was dismissed over a breach of “state official ethics and systematic disciplinary violations” in 2009, when he was an advisor to president Medvedev.

Do you believe in the existence of cosmic justice? 

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The Law against Russian bloggers  

 On August 1st 2014 the Law demanding official registration of all Russian bloggers in Roscomnadzor lists went into effect.  This law, signed by Russian president Vladimir Putin on the 5th of May, 2014 as part of an anti-terrorism package, is for the first time stating a  definition of “Blogger”.


A blogger can register voluntarily by filing a form on a website, or he or she will be informed when he has been added to the list.  Registered bloggers are requested to reveal their personal information on their webpage and avoid publishing information which is “unconfirmed”; they are also not allowed to violate somebody’s private life (by publishing negative statements about any public person) and are prohibited from using jargon and “badwords”.

A specific expert commission was organized to supervise this issue.

A blogger’s popularity will be determined with the help of specific technical equipment that will count the number of views and their length (with a minimum of 15 seconds). The website for registration is 97-fz.rkn.gov.ru.

Roscomnadzor can also request detailed information about a blogger from the information spread by organizers (search engines, social media networks, web sites).  For refusal to comply with these demands, administrative fines will be levied.

This law has resulted in intense discussions and criticism in the Blogosphere, among bloggers, lawyers, NGOs, and activists.  Roscomnadzor states that this law should not provoke panic, as its goal is not to prevent users from publishing blogs, but to improve communication between bloggers and the public, to prevent the spread of false information, jargon and negative information.

According to Roscomnadzor, official Alexander Zharov, “Roscomnadzor has legal agreements with public counters (Open Stat, Yandex Metrix, Mail.ru Ranking, Liveinternet) to count visitors.  I hope that the amount of unverified information, hate speech and black marks will decrease, and that the audience will be grateful” – Zharov said.

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Runet Celebrates its 20th Birthday 

 


This year The RUnet has celebrated its 20th anniversary --   April 7th, 1994 is considered to be the birth date of the RUnet.

To celebrate this great date, many exciting events were organized by the Russian Internet community.

The project “RUnet is 20” aims to present the chronology of RUnet development by highlighting its major events.

The online encyclopedia of RUnet http://20.theRunet.com will allow users to add events and significant dates to Runet history.  The goal of this project is to collect the most detailed story of Russian Internet.

This conference devoted to RUnet was organized by RAEC.  In his opening statement, Alexey Volin, the deputy minister of Media Communications of Russian Federation, has mentioned that “RUnet development should take place in close collaboration with the Government.”  He mentioned that this year also marks the anniversary of the Russian Constitution and the Russian Parliament.

The “Runet Awards” event and the next RIW conference will continue this celebration, by gathering major specialists of related fields to discuss such significant issues as Internet Media, Social media, RUnet mobilization, Business in RUnet, and the Internet and the State.  To conclude  the celebration, the final show “RUnet is 20!” will be presented.

The official website of the Project is  http://20.theRunet.com.  The official website for Runet Awards is    http://premiaruneta.ru

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Russian personal data belongs to Russia: Putin signes the law on personal data location. 


On July 22, 2014, Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed a law requiring mail services and social networks to store personal data of Russian users within the territory of the Russian Federation.  This law will become active on September 1st 2016.

As stated in the law, while working with personal data,  network operators are  required to ensure its accumulation, storage, update, and  classification using data centers located in the territory of the Russian Federation. 

This law also implements sanctions for violation of these rules.  For example, domain names and network addresses disregarding the law will be placed on a  list of violators, named "Violators of users' rights on personal data protection".  Roscomnadzor Russian regulator will be responsible for maintaining this list, and will add violators to that list according to court decisions.  Violation of the law will also result in limitation of access to that specific internet resource.

 

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Anti-extremism law: An Arest for Repost


According to the new law, there is now a punishment of 6 years imprisonment for public appeals for extremism, public assaults, discrimination and provocation of racial or national hatred, including appeals on the Internet.

Also, the punishment for an organization of any extremist kind of activity will now become harsher:  the organizers will be arrested and jailed for 2-8 years, have to pay fines up to 500,000 rubles, or will be sentenced to perform public service for up to 5 years.

However, not all Internet users are aware that a repost on social media may now be considered equivalent to an extremist public message, even if it doesn’t include any of the user’s comments in it.  The punishment for reposting content on social media networks containing extremism content will now be the same as for an extremist action.

It will not be taken into consideration how many followers a user has, even if is an extremely small number.  There were a number of court cases when Vkontakte (the Russian social network) users were arrested for posting, sharing, and reposting political content that was considered to be illegal, and even for being tagged on another person’s comment or picture with extremist content.

In one of the cases, a Vkontakte user was arrested for sharing a video from the Navalny rally, which was considered to be extremist activity.

Here is the full list of articles users can be arrested for, or obliged to pay heavy fines for, so far:

·               Public appeals for extremist action

·               Public appeals for terrorist activity

·               Disclosure of personal or family information

·               Spread of gossip

·               Encouragement of racism

·               Appeals for mass activist activity          

·               Propaganda and demonstration of racist symbols

·               Public appeals for actions compromising national integrity

AGORA human rights association's lawyers comment that this law will increase self-censorship among users and will make them more careful with what they post online.

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Media Bans and Online Sensorship

Amendments to the Child Protection Law had barely been put in place on July 2012 when the Duma (the lower house of the Russian parliament) decided to add prohibitions of anonymizers and filter- bypass tools (proxies, VPN). According to the bill to amend the information law, filed on 21 September 2012, Internet users who continue to use these methods will face penalties ranging from blocking of their Internet access to levying heavy fines.

According to Roskomnadzor (the Federal Service for Supervision in the Sphere of Telecom, Information Technologies and Mass Communications) all online media except news agencies are required to put age restriction labels on their content, but print media that cover politics and current affairs are exempt. Each individual article or item was supposed to be labelled, but "if that proves too complicated, the entire website must be labelled”.

 The Russian media are split between those that are panicking about the new provisions, and those that are just perplexed by them. To avoid any risk, many online media representatives have decided they may have to label their entire site as "banned to those under the age of 18" even if this could have a big impact on their readership and could result in their site being blocked by some Internet Service Providers, public WiFi networks and public institutions such as schools.

Article 4 of a bill that parliamentarians from all four parties in the Duma submitted to the family commission on  June 7, 2012 proposed a unified register of Internet domains and websites containing banned content.

Also, in June of 2013, Russia’s Duma issued a new law that prohibits the promotion of homosexuality, and other deviant sexual behaviors among minors.  The Russian parliament voted 436 to 0 to pass a total ban on “homosexual propaganda” by foreign or domestic activists.  The law will impose stiff fines or prison terms for spreading “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations.” This law has become one of the most controversial pieces of legislation in Russia today, and has raised international debates and protests of world celebrities and LGBT activists.

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Russian Anti piracy law

The ‘anti-piracy’ law that came into force on August 1st 2013 allows the authorities to order Russian Internet providers to block websites once copyright holders file a complaint alleging sites are distributing pirated content, or have links to pirated content.  The block is valid for 15 days, during which time the copyright holder must prepare and file a lawsuit. Otherwise the block is lifted automatically.

The law orders all piracy claims be sent to the Moscow City Court, a measure which has been criticized by Internet specialists and the broader public, who state that it creates an unnecessary caseload for judges, and that it also discriminates against Russians who live outside of the capital city.

The Russian Internet community has claimed the anti-piracy law to be harmful to Internet business and open to potential abuse. An online petition to repeal the law received more than 15,000 signatures.  The move to cancel the controversial anti-piracy law came less than one month after its official introduction.

The petition was published on the Russian Public Initiatives (ROI) website on July 2, shortly after President Vladimir Putin signed the bill – designed to protect against film piracy – into law.   This law was broadened on September 17th by a new bill allowing for websites to be blocked if they contain any copyright-infringing content, including copyrighted music and software.

The original bill allowed the banning of whole IP blocks – which are often shared by hundreds of websites, all of which would be affected if one of them is blacklisted – and made enforcing the bans the responsibility of Internet service providers. The new bill would provide for banning by URL – the individual address of a webpage – and would ease sanctions for “informational intermediaries” such as hosting providers and search engines involved in providing access to copyright-infringing content.  For the Russian Internet, which has always been a space for free content, it is a shocking change.  Many of the companies participating in our research project were not able to find time for an interview, as they were swamped with enormous amounts of extra paperwork related to the new laws.

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Runet's Turning Point: Russian Blacklists


On 1 November 2012 the lower house of the Russian parliament, the Duma, approvedFederal law no. 139-FZ of 2012-07-28 (“Law on the Protection of Children from Information Detrimental to tvheir Health and Development”). The  Law was maintained by the Russian Federal Surveillance Service for Mass Media and Communications (Roskomnadzor), Its operation is described in a government decree issued on 26 October 2012.

 

According to this Law, websites “containing pornography or extremist ideas, or promoting suicide or use of drugs” could be placed directly on the blacklist without referring to a court. In other cases, a court’s approval would have to be obtained first.

 

Once a website appeared on the list, the site’s hosting-provider would have 24 hours to notify the site-owner, who must then delete the offending data. If the owner fails to act, the hosting-provider is required to shut down or delete the site itself. In the event that the hosting-provider fails or refuses to act, it joins the registry and then web-providers must cut off access to that entire hosting-provider.  Anyone included on the blacklist then has three months to appeal the decision in court. The bill imposes a “collective punishment” on Internet users since it could render law-abiding websites and legitimate websites inaccessible.

 

As a protest to the law, Wikipedia’s Russian-language site (ru.wikipedia.org) showed on its home page a bar across the Wikipedia logo with the words: “Imagine a world without free knowledge.”  This protest against a bill that could lead to “extra-judicial Internet censorship” was taken up by the Yandex search engine, which placed a bar across the word “Everything” in its slogan “Everything will be found.”

 

A coalition of independent Russian journalists has launched an online petition for the withdrawal of this bill. The online petition of users against the bill collected over thousand names; however, the  government considered it to be “inadequate” and the petition was not taken into consideration.

 

Russia's Internet blacklist is now a database of URLsdomain names, and IP addresses of websites and webpages containing child pornography, advocacy of drug abuse and drug production instructions, suicide advocacy, or any information which have been prohibited for distribution in Russia by court decision.

 

Visitors to the blacklist website can check whether a given URL or IP address is in the blacklist, and may submit new entries. After a new entry has been reviewed and verified to contain prohibited materials, Roskomnadzor will inform the website owner and hosting provider. If the material is not removed within three days, the website will be added to the blacklist, and all Russian ISPs must block it. The full content of the blacklist is available to ISPs, but not to the general public.

·         The Russian Uncyclopedia was blocked on 8 November 2012 for a satirical article titled "How to correctly: Commit suicide”; the article was subsequently removed.  This block also affected all other content hosted at the same IP address, including all the wikis on Wikia.  Wikia's IP address remains blocked as of November 16, 2012.

·         The IP address of Lurkmore.to (Lurkomorye) was blocked on November 11, 2012 by decision of the Federal Drug Control Service of Russia;  The case of Lurkmore drew immediate attention on RUnet.  Lurkmore.to was removed from the blacklist on November 13, after the website administrators deleted two marijuana-related articles.

·         The IP address of the Librusec online library was blacklisted on November 11, 2012. According to a leaked copy of the blacklist, it was blocked for a description of marijuana soup in a Russian translation of The Anarchist Cookbook. The IP address was unblocked on November 13 after The Anarchist Cookbook was removed by Librusec administrators.

·         On November 12, 2012, the leaked list of blacklisted websites was published by a LiveJournal user.

·         In September 2012, YouTube was entirely blocked for several hours in some regions by providers who had been ordered to block the anti-Islam film, “The Innocence of Muslims.” Communications Minister Nikolai Nikiforov had warned that YouTube could be entirely shut down throughout the country if the site did not take down the film.

·         On April 8, it was confirmed by Roskomnadzor that several Russian and English Wikipedia articles had been blacklisted.

·         In July 2012, the Russian social networking site Vkontakte posted messages on users' homepages warning that the law posed a risk to its future.

Lenta.Ru editorial noted that the criteria for prohibited content are so broad that even the website of the United Russia party could in theory be blacklisted.  However, the idea of an Internet blacklist is generally supported by the Russian public: in a September 2012 Levada Center survey, 63% of respondents had expressed support for "Internet censorship", even though any kind of censorship is banned under the Constitution of Russia.

 

Besides NGOs and human rights campaigners, websites including the Russian search engine giant Yandex, social media portal Mail.ru and the Russian-language version of Wikipedia have all protested against the law.

Meanwhile, Russia’s telecom minister Nikolai Nikiforov  (according to a report by Tass)  says "The Internet has always been a free territory. The government is not  planning on enforcing censorship there.  For example, LiveJournal, YouTube and Facebook are models for socially responsible. .companies. That means that they will be blocked only if they refuse to follow Russian laws, which is unlikely”. 

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