Russian officials want to force blog platforms and social networks to collect data on the real personalities of popular users, store it for six months and disclose it to law enforcers upon request. Even without a court warrant.
The new amendments are being prepared by specialists from the federal communications watchdog Roskomnadzor as a step to add details to the Law on Bloggers, which comes into force in August this year as part of a broader legislative package aimed to facilitate Russia’s War on Terror.
The drafts have been published on the Rublacklist site maintained by activists of the unregistered Pirate Party of Russia, but officials, including Roskomnadzor’s spokesman Vadim Ampelonsky, have confirmed their authenticity to reporters, albeit stressing that these were only preliminary versions.
The current law obliges all bloggers with daily audience of 3,000 people or more to register with Roskomnadzor under their real names and observe the general mass media rules, such as abstaining from posting extremist information, pornography or violence, and also state or commercial secrets and personal data of citizens.
A ban on obscene language has already infuriated many Russian web users. The state watchdog has the right to force the suspension of violators’ accounts with an out-of-court order, but the status quo should be restored automatically if the agency does not initiate and win the lawsuit afterwards.
The new amendments detail the information that need to be reported to the state as their logins and aliases, email addresses, the list of contacts and the logs of all internet activities, including even the names of devices used for web connection.
They also order blog service providers and social networks to keep all data and logs of popular users for at least six months and present them to law enforcers upon request (the current bill allows this only upon production of a court order). The platforms are required to provide all posts and comments to government agents by request, but the personal correspondence of users still remains confidential.
The drafts also mention that the new rules apply to Russian- and foreign-based sites that allow information exchange among users. However, the foreign platforms are only required to provide information about users who register from Russian territory or those who used Russian IDs, telephone numbers or bank accounts for this.
The new rules also give blog hosting companies an option: instead of storing the popular users’ data themselves, they can give the security services access to their databases and the storage will be organized by state agents, at the state’s expense. However, an unnamed source in the Interior Ministry has told Vedomosti that law enforcers did not possess the resources to implement the plan.
The blogger bill has already caused a major stir in the Russian internet industry and the community as a whole. Critics cite possible infringement of the freedom of expression, while businessmen complain of additional responsibilities without any compensation.
After it was passed by the lower house, Russian internet major Yandex closed the ratings of blogs in its search engine and also stopped indicating the number of readers for separate bloggers. Popular blog platform, Livejournal, has also announced that it was hiding the statistics to help its users dodge the new regulations as they come into force.
However, the head of Rospotrebnadzor, Aleksandr Zharov, has called that move “emotional” and assured reporters that his agency would be able to obtain the data on popular bloggers without any help.