23 Dec 2020 11:32

State Duma adopts Internet censorship law

MOSCOW. Dec 23 (Interfax) - The high-profile bill prohibiting web portals from censorship passed the third and final reading at the State Duma meeting on Wednesday; as reported earlier, the law will apply to YouTube and Facebook.

In accordance with the bill, the Federal Service for Supervision of Communications, Information Technology and Mass Media (Roskomnadzor) is authorized to block, either fully or partially, access to websites censoring significant information in the territory of Russia for reasons of nationality, language, origin, material or official status, profession, place of residence or work, attitude to religion, and/or political or economic sanctions imposed by foreign states on Russia and Russian citizens. In particular, a website might be blocked for "discrimination of materials of Russian media outlets."

The bill enables the use of technical means envisaged by the previously adopted "sovereign Internet" law to deter such threats.

In accordance with the bill, the Russian Prosecutor General's Office, in agreement with the Russian Foreign Ministry, will initiate the blocking. A website violating the new law will be added to a special list of websites "involved in violations of the fundamental human rights and freedoms and the rights and freedoms of Russian citizens." Roskomnadzor will impose restrictions on those on this list.

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

The legal initiative was submitted to the State Duma on November 19. The bill is authored by Chairman of the State Duma Committee on Information Policy, Technologies, and Communication Alexander Khinshtein and his deputies Maxim Kudryavtsev, Alexander Yushchenko, and Sergei Boyarsky. The relevant State Duma committee endorsed the bill on December 7 and the Ministry of Digital Development, Communications and Mass Media also backed it.

Khinshtein earlier told media outlets that he expects that the bill would be used "very cautiously and very carefully" and expressed hope that it would not lead to the blocking of YouTube in Russia.