Russia doubles down on censorship with new ‘fake news’ and ‘internet insults’ law

Posted on Mar 19, 2019 by Caleb Chen

The Russian government has passed a new censorship law that allows it to target individuals and websites for such nondescript crimes as spreading “fake news” and “disrespecting” state symbols of figures – including Vladimir Putin. Specifically, Russia will be able to punish any person or site that “exhibits blatant disrespect for the society, government, official government symbols, constitution or governmental bodies of Russia.” The laws passed after two months in the Russian legislature without any of the changes requested by privacy and civil liberties activists in Russia. According to the Moscow Times, the first law introduces a fine of up to 1.5 million rubles (~$22,900) for users and sites that spread “fake news.” The second law introduces fines up to 300,000 rubles (~$4,580) on top of jail time up to fifteen days for disrespecting Putin or other state symbols.

Disrespectful content to be censored, sharers punished

Who decides what counts as disrespectful? In the current setup: The Russian government of course. That’s a slippery slope to let the government decide. After all, is a news article that calls Russia’s new law a bad idea considered disrespectful? Russian journalists and public figures have signed a petition opposing the new laws and condemning them as “direct censorship.”

Internet censorship is at an all time high and Internet freedom is at an all time low in Russia. Encrypted messaging systems like Telegram are being targeted, Russian datacenters attempt to seize your data without due process, outside companies are forced to locate their servers on Russian soil, or be blocked, Though activists march on Moscow to protest this, the Roskomnadzor’s blacklist still grows while the internet’s freedom still shrinks.

Censorship on the rise around the world

This is censorship plain and simple. While it may not seem as blatant as ISPs in Australia and New Zealand straight up blocking access to some websites, Russia’s newest law is actually a step above that. The reason being that Russia already has a long list of blacklisted websites which is mained by the Roskomnadzor, Russia’s internet censorship agency. Any site that the Russian government doesn’t like, it can simply blacklist for Russian internet users – rendering them unable to visit the blacklisted site unless they use a VPN – which is still allowed.

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