19 Nov 2020 10:24

Web portals may be blocked for restricting access to information of Russian media outlets - bill

MOSCOW. Nov 19 (Interfax) - A bill submitted to the State Duma on Thursday morning by a group of State Duma deputies and Federation Council members envisages sanctions, up to complete blocking, for web portals that restrict access to information materials of Russian media outlets and breach the freedom to receive Russian-language information.

According to the bill, the Russian legislation may be augmented with the status of "the owner of a web portal involved in the breach of fundamental human and civil rights and freedoms of Russian citizens."

The status can be designated by the Russian prosecutor general with the consent of the Russian Foreign Ministry, in particular, for "discriminating against materials of Russian media outlets." The same can be done if a web portal restricts access to "socially significant information for reasons of nationality, language, or sanctions imposed on Russia and its citizens."

The Federal Service for Supervision of Communications, Information Technology and Mass Media (Roskomnadzor) may restrict access to such web portals either fully or partially, using the hardware of Internet providers.

Potentially, the bill may apply to popular Western social media outlets. The authors noted in the explanatory note that Twitter, Facebook and YouTube were amongst the web portals that blocked information of Russian media outlets in 2020.

"Since April 2020, the Russian authorities have been receiving complaints from editorial offices of media outlets over the censorship of their accounts by foreign web portals Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube," the explanatory note said.

The bill allows for the web portal's unblocking after its owner stops restricting access to information materials of Russian media outlets or other socially significant information for discriminatory reasons. In that case, Roskomnadzor will inform the prosecutor general that the web portal has stopped breaking the law, and the prosecutor general may initiate the lifting of restrictions.