Conflict over new bill designed to regulate internet freedom

8 Jul 2010

As the Russian government prepares to implement a new bill to regulate internet freedom this autumn, the Ministry of Communications (MinSvyaz) is at loggerheads with the State Duma, the Moscow Times reports. The State Duma’s Information Policy Committee, which comprises leading journalists, economists and internet experts, has proposed a number of amendments to the new Law on Information Technology and Data Protection. Spokesman Robert Shlegel said that the main idea behind the Duma’s bill is ‘that everything that is allowed in real life should be allowed online as well, and therefore any attempts to introduce additional limitations are illegal’. However, he cautioned that MinSvyaz has drafted alternative legislation that would give more power to law enforcement agencies working with internet providers and websites.

The State Duma’s amendments stipulate that the person who transfers the information, and not the ISP, should be held responsible for the content in question. Online infractions would fall under Russian law if they involve property located in Russia, or if participants include Russian residents, whether individuals or legal bodies. This means that the creators and moderators of a given website could be prosecuted in Russia even if their servers are located abroad. The State Duma’s Information Policy Committee has forwarded its bill to the Kremlin, and hopes to get President Medvedev’s approval to introduce the legislation in the autumn. So far MinSvyaz have refused to comment on the State Duma’s proposals.