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New proposed law on “social networks” in Russia

After the first initial proposal to regulate and control social networks in Russia and dissemination of information there failed, the Russian legislators proposed new redaction of this law. It was introduced again and it seems the law will be adopted for sure and quickly. Explanation note to the draft law states that the aim is to preclude the dissemination of illegal and false social significant information in social networks in Russia.

The note takes attention on the fact, that social networks are the main means increasing dislocability and allowing cross-border exchange of information in communication space and as a result making information available for million people. In this regard it is very important to sustain the informational function of social networks, but to exclude their exploitation for illegal purposes.

As example, the note takes attention to the German “hate speech” law. The new redaction of law introduces new definition – the owner of public network. The initial redaction provided definition “the operator of social network”. But if the subject of German law is “hate speech”, the subject of Russian law is false publicly significant information and its dissemination in networks. These are two different things.

Who is the owner of public network? It is the person who organizes dissemination of information in internet and providing the functioning of informational system and/or program for computers intended to be or are used by internet users, who have been identified in such systems and/or programs, in order to place electronic messages in the form of text in writing, voice information, images, sounds, video or in other forms, intended to other persons, who also have been identified in such systems and/or programs, and also for exchange of electronic messages.

The owner of public network is subject of proposed regulation if complies with one condition – if more than 100 thousands users, residing in Russia, have access to this public network a day. If organizer complies with this main condition is must abide following provisions of draft law:

  • to create representative office in Russia;
  • within 24 hours to restrict access to or delete at the request of a user an information, disseminated in public network, if such information is clearly intended to propaganda of war, or is hate speech, or is illegal under Russian law;
  • to keep and maintain the registry of users’ requests and provide it at the first request of supervising authority – currently it is Russian Roskomnadzor;
  • do not allow to use public network in order to disclose information consisting of state secrets or other secret information, to disseminate extremist materials, materials popularize pornography, violence and explicit content;
  • to abide prohibitions and restriction provided by Russian law on elections and referendum;
  • to publish contact details including email in order to receive legally relevant messages and also the name and surname with initials (for natural persons) and business name (for legal persons);
  • to install in system of public network program, recommended by supervising authority, in order to define the quantity of users of public network;
  • to identify users by their cell number;
  • to preclude the exploitation of public network for concealment or falsification of publicly significant information, for dissemination of false public information represented as truthful;

The supervising authority organizes and maintain the registry of public networks, in other words it makes lists of public networks working in Russia. In order to keep such registry the supervising authority:

  • monitors informational resources;
  • adopts methodic allowing to count the daily quantity of users of informational resource in question;
  • has the right to require the owner of public network or other persons information necessary to keep registry; the owner or persons must provide requested information within 10 days following request.

How supervising authority should execute proposed law? If such authority, when surfing internet, explores public network it:

  • declares such network as public and includes it in registry of public networks;
  • defines the hosting provider or other person who provides location for public network in internet;
  • requests necessary information in Russian and English in order to identify the owner of public network.

If the daily quantity of users is less than 100 thousands, the public networks is to be excluded from registry of supervising authority. If supervising authority discovers illegal information in public network it requests network to delete such information within 24 hours. If any other state authorities discover false and/or illegal information, they can request supervising authority to undertake measures aimed to preclude or delete such information, including all copies.

If public network does not comply with requests of supervising authority, it is to be blocked in Russia, in other words the access to public network can be restricted if it is impossible to restrict access to separate page(s) with information in question.