This week, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a new law requiring any website (including blogs) that gets more than 3,000 visitors per day to register with the government.
The law, which is being referred to as the “bloggers law,” states that these sites will be considered media outlets in the same way that newspapers are. Therefore, these sites will be held responsible for the content they publish just as newspapers and other media organizations are. Furthermore, the law states that bloggers cannot be anonymous.
Clearly, the law is intended to make it easy for the Russian government to track what these bloggers and content publishers are saying. To make things even easier for the government to cast a wide net, the law states that any platform that publishes the work of these bloggers and content publishers (e.g., blogging applications, social networks, forums, and even search engines) must retain computer records of everything posted by these sites during the previous six months. Furthermore, the New York Times reports that those records must be stored on Russian soil.
The law goes into effect on August 1, 2014. Blogs and websites that are found to violate the law will face fines as high as $142,000, and their blogs could be temporarily closed by the government.
This isn’t the first law that Russia has put in place to curb free speech on the internet. Earlier this year, a separate law enabled the Russian government to block websites. Already the Russian government used this law to block bloggers and content publishers that criticized the government as well as sites that published content related to political activities and demonstrations against the government.
Despite these new laws, some Russian bloggers are finding ways to share their content with the world anyway. Grani.ru ( which is syndicated by Newstex) developed a wiki page for people to access the site even though it was blocked by the Russian government earlier this year under the new law.
It’s important to note that Russia isn’t the only government that is trying to regulate the internet and limit free speech. Countries like China, Pakistan, Iran, and more already have laws in place to control web content and conversations despite the fact that the majority of people within most of these countries are against government censorship of the internet. Unfortunately, it’s probably safe to assume that more laws like the ones Russia put in place this year are coming. What do you think?
Image: Christopher Schmidt