A new Supreme Court decree to be adopted next week makes Russian Internet mass media responsible for comments left on their sites.
The decree was prompted by a recent rise in the number of cases concerning Internet comments.
Secretary of Journalists’ Union Mikhail Fedotov, who was a member of the work group that prepared the decree, said that the decree would instruct the court on how to deal with such cases.
“We have made enormous efforts to get this work done, so I can say with responsibility that we have a very good understanding of the situation,” Fedotov said. “Our aim was to help the court in solving such cases, not to put extra pressure on the Internet mass media. We are talking about judicial practice, not about any amendments to the existing law.”
It means that from now on, Internet-based mass media would still be able to publish any comments left by visitors – with pre-moderation and editing or even without it. However, in case there was no moderation, and the authorized bodies or an individual would decide that some comments violate the law or the individual’s rights, they would be able to send a request to the site owners that, in their turn, will have to tackle the issue. If the site owners ignore the request, they would receive a warning, which can be disputed in court, and an individual would also have the right to take the case to court.
“The same approach is used in Germany, in France and in many other countries,” Fedotov added.
The decree, however, was not very warmly welcomed by the mass media themselves.
“The technical side is not a problem. The question is, how many complaints are going to be made, how many people or organisations would consider a certain comment insulting. And that's tough considering that our main audience is generally quite liberal and often takes critical positions towards ruling power,” journalist Elizaveta Surnacheva told RT. “It can easily end in watchdogs ordering us to remove everything, but then what's the purpose of introducing commenting functions?”
Blogger Andrey Podshibyakin echoes these concerns.
“I’m afraid Russian Internet media will just shut down comments completely to avoid any complications. Comment moderation will be impossible to enforce. It means that the mass media will have to keep the stuff entirely dedicated to monitoring comments. In big Internet media, there are thousands of comments daily. You will need dozens of people to monitor them,” Podshibyakin said.