Foreign websites subject to scrutiny in new draft bill in Russia

Foreign websites subject to scrutiny in new draft bill in Russia

27 May 2014
Text Nadia Beard

Russia’s media watchdog Roskomnadzor has drafted a bill to ban foreign websites in the country if they fail to register with the organisation. The proposed bill is being prepared as part of Russia’s “anti-terrorism” laws and would cover all websites that allow users to exchange messages. Under the new law, Russian security services or police would be able to request detailed data about the owners of a website, giving them five days to comply before being blocked by Roskomnadzor in Russia.

Website owners will be obliged to provide the authorities with a raft of information including their names, the name of their company, their passport details and their Russian taxpayer’s number. The number of prominent, foreign websites used in Russia has caused increasing concern among Russian officials over the past year. Last week, Maxim Ksenzov, deputy head of Roskomnadzor, said: “There is a general problem in the interaction with global companies of American origin: Twitter, Facebook and Google. Twitter and Facebook are not legally present in Russia.”

Following Ksenzov’s remarks, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev took to his official Facebook page to allay fears about clampdowns on online media. Refuting Ksenzov’s claim that Twitter’s breach of Roskomadzor’s rules makes “blocking the service in Russia almost inevitable”, Medvedev wrote: “Some officials in charge of the industry’s development should use their brain from time to time. And they shouldn’t give interviews announcing the blocking of social networks.”

Despite Medvedev’s assurances, Roskomnadzor’s new draft bill has renewed fears that social media in Russia is on its way to being restricted. Roskomnadzor’s new proposal is part of a legal package that saw the “blogger’s law” enacted earlier this month, requiring bloggers with more than 3,000 daily hits to register with the media watchdog.