Vladimir Putin has taken more steps to shut down online criticism of his regime.
On Monday, the Russian President signed a new law that will require bloggers to register with the government. The law is widely expected to give the Russian government an easier way to track and regulate online opinion – and to deny registration to those it dislikes.
Under the new “Blogger’s Law,” which goes into effect August 1, any site with over 3,000 daily visitors will be considered the equivalent of a newspaper. The site will have to certify the accuracy of facts presented, as Russian newspapers are required to do.
In response, at least two major blogging platforms, Yandex and LiveJournal, have announced that they will stop their displayed visitor counters at 3,000.
Additionally, the new law makes anonymous blogging illegal.
“In principle, anonymity is always deception,” a sponsor of the law, Irina Yarovaya, told NPR.
“Anonymity can empower Internet users to speak freely without fear of reprisal,” posted policy analyst Emily Barabas of the Center for Democracy and Technology.
She pointed out that the law also requires bloggers to “display their family name, initials, and contact information on their website.” Bloggers — a term so broadly defined that it could include anyone posting online, even in social networks — can also be held responsible for third-party comments.
The law will require that archives of what has been posted on blogs during the previous six months will have to be maintained. Bloggers and social media networks must also store their user information, posts, and emails in Russian servers, which may well lead to issues with Facebook, Twitter, or other global services in use in Russia.
Violators are subject to fines of up to $142,000 and a possible shutdown of their online outlet. Such legal violations as “defamation” or “inciting hatred” are also now recognized.
The Blogger’s Law “is part of the general campaign to shut down the Internet in Russia,” blogger and online media owner Anton Nossik told The New York Times.
Under another recent law, the Russian government can now more easily block websites, a capability that has been used against several governmental critics and online news sites.
Recently, when ex-NSA contractor Edward Snowden put a software question to Putin during a live TV show in Russia, he received substantial criticism for enabling the Russian leader to paint his government as not interested in, and incapable of, mass surveillance.
In response to the criticism, Snowden said he asked the question “to lift a taboo on discussion of state surveillance before an audience that primarily views state media.” He added that he hoped “Putin’s answer – whatever it was – would provide opportunities for serious journalists and civil society to push the discussion further.”
As these laws show, Putin has an apparently endless array of techniques to push the discussion further … away.
And, for any entertainers who intend to use performances in Russia as occasions to tell Putin what he can do with the new laws, watch out.
Another new law signed on Monday makes it illegal to use profane language — with “profane” apparently defined by the government — in the arts and in cultural and entertainment events in the country. Additionally, movies with swear words won’t get permission to be shown in a theater, and packaged expression – books, CDs or DVDs – can be labeled as having “obscene language.”