Russian telecommunication companies proposed regulation for Viber and WhatsApp

Media-communication union (MKS), representing Russian telecommunication companies (communication operators and TV-companies), has finally published its draft bill for regulation of messengers and OTT-services. But the legislative proposal has been presented to the public for a little period of time.

After requests for comments the link to the document on MKS’s web-site became inactive and file of document has disappeared. But some internet resources have published allegedly the text of document. Internet web-site intermedia.ru has published a text. There is also official text, pending consideration at the Russian state duma. The both text differ from each other. What it was proposed initially?

The initial text of legislative proposal includes regulation for messengers. It proposes amendments to the law “About information, its protection and informational technologies”. Who is messenger under this draft bill? The messenger, like Viber or WhatsApp, organises dissemination of information in Internet network and provides opportunity to send electronic messages in telecommunication networks, including Internet, with application of user’s equipment (end-user equipment) connected to such network, and also with application of software, identifying a user.

What the messenger must do under draft bill? First of all it must provide its services only to those users, who are identified under Russian governmental regulation. Identification of internet users must be done with help of subscribers’ mobile phone number and subsequently with help of data containing in databanks of mobile operators and also under agreement concluded between mobile operator and messenger. Identification of internet user also can be done with help of unified system of identification and authentication. The template of standard agreement is to be adopted by federal executive authority.

Messenger has to secure confidentiality of electronic messages. User also should be provided with technical opportunity to block other user if he does not want to receive any messages from blocked user. Messenger, at the request of state authorities under Russian law, must guarantee opportunity for mass-messaging to its users and vice-versa, it must restrict mass-messaging at the request of authorised federal executive authority. And, certainly, messenger must prevent the sending of any message if it violates relevant provision of applicable Russian legislation.

If a messenger does not comply with rules or requests of federal executive authority, then the access to informational systems and/or software for computers of such messenger is to be restricted or blocked by telecom operator, providing internet access, in accordance with decision of authorised federal executive authority until such messenger comply with rules or requirements.

Under draft bill, the messengers are weak side in relation to telecom operators. For example, telecom operator is not obliged to provide messenger with information about its subscriber. With help of such initiative Russian telecom operators intend to take control over apps or messengers which they cannot control. Many people use free wi-fi and don’t pay to mobile operator for its services (not always good enough) or they pay much lesser than before. Mobile operators don’t like it.