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Sova Centre: New Bill Would Violate Rights of Internet Users

20 November 2012 


Source: HRO.org (info)
On 20th November 2012 the State Duma will discuss in first reading a bill providing for the introduction of filtering and passwords for access to Internet in public places. The legislation is one of the measures to ensure compliance with the law on control of information on the Web. The stated goal is to protect minors “from information which can be harmful to their health and (or) development.” 

According to bill No 112058-6 “On amendments to Article 6.17 of the Code of Administrative offences of the Russian Federation (in particular, the clarification of the elements of the administrative offence),” Article 6.17, Section 2, should now read as follows: “An individual who who provides access to information, which is distributed through information and telecommunication networks, including the Internet, in places accessable by children ,and does not apply administrative and organisational measures or technical and software-related means to protect the children from information which can harm their health or development, will be subject to a fine for an administrative violation of from 5.000 RUB to 10.000 RUB if they carry out business activities without creating a legal person, and from 20.000 RUB to 50.000 RUB if they constitute a legal entity.”

The newspaper Izvestiya cites the reasoning behind the bill as given by one of its authors, Elena Mizulina: “The individual who provides internet access in places accessible to children must employ software and organizational and administrative measures to prevent the child from obtaining information which can be dangerous for their health. If there is a small café which does not provide information filtering then the internet access should be given to adults only by providing them with a password, or to the children under the control of an adult. However, if we are talking about a free WiFi on the Moscow underground where it is simply impossible to establish who uses the Internet, whether either an adult or a child, the Internet should definitely be filtered for the children not to be able to access any dangerous websites.” 

Sova Centre made the following comments regarding this legislative initiative:

In our view the bill in question is a form of excessive vigilance on the part of the authorities, which could lead to serious violations of users’ rights, all the more because it is not clearly worded. Indeed, if the information which is prohibited to be distributed within the territory of Russia, according to the law on control of information on the Web, should be filtered by the owners of websites, Internet providers or communications’ providers, then what should be filtered at the level who provide immediate access to the Internet? Let’s suppose that in educational establishments for minors, the children must receive information in accordance with their age. But what kind of restrictions should be imposed on users of WiFi connections in the Moscow underground or a MacDonald’s restaurant? It is doubtful that a child, finding themselves in one of these places locations without any parental supervision, will immediately try to access pornographic sites. So far as teenagers are concerned, without any doubt they would be able to get round any ban quicker than adults. However, following the logic of the bill, it will be the adults sitting in Gorky Park with their favourite IPad who will find their access blocked to any information categorized as permissible for users older than 6 years (including access to the website of Sova Centre)."        

According to one of the representatives of the Federal Communications Oversight Agency, the issue of access to WiFi in public places “is not described in detail in the regulations.” “We are in the process of discussing this issue with all stakeholders,” Vladimir Pikov told Izvestiya, “and then based on the results of the discussion law enforcement practice will be determined.”

Past experience shows that the practice of passing and implementing ill-considered legislation can have unfortunate and even absurd consequences.”
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