Will Russia Regulate Blogs Like Mass Media?

Anonymous does not care. Images remixed by Andrey Tselikov.

Anonymous does not know or care. Images remixed by Andrey Tselikov.

On April 7, 2014 two Russian MPs announced [ru] they would be proposing yet anther law controlling the flow of information on the RuNet. According to Andrei Lugovoi and Vadim Dengin, both Liberal Democrats, under their proposal bloggers with an audience of more than 3,000 readers would face the same regulations as all Russian mass media. The regulations would require fact-checking, age restriction warnings, and obeying election laws, among other responsibilities.

As Vadim Dengin told the news portal TJournal [ru], the number of readers would be determined from the number of unique visitors, and that all “bots” would be excluded from the numbers. According to Dengin, Roskomnadzor, Russia's media regulator, has the capacity to maintain such a registry of popular blogs. 

The announcement understandably incensed Russian bloggers, some of whom view this as simply another step in the Kremlin's steadily increasing control Russia's unruly and critical blogosphere. Oleg Kozyrev, journalist and blogger with over 8,000 “friends” on LiveJournal and over 46,000 followers on Twitter, wrote [ru] that the proposal would essentially negate blogger rights to free expression of their opinion. It is clear, said Kozyrev, that this silencing would be directed against “socio-political bloggers, civic and ecological projects.”

Art gallery owner and former political spin doctor Marat Guelman was also perturbed [ru]:

Не смешно: Они действительно решили блоги у которых свыше 3000 читателей при равнять к СМИ. Я не понимал как это будет работать, а тут обьяснили. Получаешь предписание обязывающее зарегестрировать. А то понимаешь Все СМИ позакрывали, а журналисты, блядь, всё никак не кончаются. У меня в твиттере 63 000.

Not funny: They really decided to equate blogs with over 3000 readers to mass media. I didn't understand how it would work, but someone explained. You get an order that requires you to register [your blog]. Because, you understand, they've shut down all the [actual] mass media, but the f*cking journalists just won't stop writing. I have 63,000 [followers] on my Twitter.

Ivan Zassoursky, a professor of journalism at Moscow State University, wrote [ru] on his Facebook that the proposal has a different, more serious goal in mind. Because it would be impossible for Russia to regulate Twitter and Facebook, he believes that such a law would in effect block Russians “without access to VPN” from accessing major foreign social networks.

At least one blogger thinks [ru] that such a law, if passed, would prove to be a net positive. Unless you are planning to evade taxes, publish personal information, or libel, says Oleg Lurie, you have nothing to worry about. Furthermore, if the government wants to shut down a blog, it already has the power to do so. There are also positives — if bloggers become mass media, government agencies will be required to respond to information requests and cooperate with bloggers the same as they do with journalists.

Most people are not convinced, however, and feel that even if effective, a law that limits freedom of expression will cause more trouble than it is worth. As former banker and popular blogger Roman Avdeev put it [ru]:

Я не хочу проводить никаких параллелей, но когда в Египте отключили Facebook и twitter, люди просто вышли на улицы… Нужно ли нам это?

I don't want to draw any parallels, but when in Egypt they turned off Facebook and Twitter, people just took to the streets… Do we need that?


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  • Robert Young

    I am continually surprised that they have not learned from my government, on how to deal with voices of the opposition. If you attempt to remove, or block information it is done with those denied access, having full knowledge that it is occurring. This makes people highly motivated to attain that information. It gives that information value beyond the information itself. It also gives that information a validity beyond measure. Anyone who obtains this information that was attempted to be blocked by those in power, will believe it true without question. Since the information has been made valuable by its scarcity the best of the population will apply all their talents to obtain it. This makes censorship by redaction an inevitable failure. Thus you find all the best minds and most talented in the society are unified in opposition to being denied access to information which leads to a union of opposition in other areas. Also, there will spring up a black market where this bit of info that has been given more power by the official taboo against it. It will spread like wildfire and as before, those given it will believe it almost without question because of the power given it by the very people who wanted to keep it from them. It is a losing game for those in power.

    Here information is hidden not by redaction but by information increase. There is literally a sea of information that constantly bombards us. This actually forces the value of each piece of information far less valuable and confronted with a rolling ocean of news, opinions, of all kinds, where there are conflicting accounts, opinions, and a politic that is not only bothered by it but is actively participatory in it. The voice of the idiot, raised to that of an expert or in reality the voice of the expert is dragged down to the level of the random unlearned opinion of the idiot. It is left up to each individual to decide which to believe and consume. Invariably they believe information that confirms what they already believe true or agrees with their understanding of the world. Now a person’s belief and understanding of the world can be much more easily manipulated than trying to stop the information from flowing. Also, it begins the person on a journey where confirmation bias will assure that they will hear and believe nothing, nor seek out anything that does not conform to what they already believe. If you get a person to hold a belief, no matter how mad and then provide access to information that agrees with and supports that belief then the person is highly unlikely to seek out or give credence to anything that is contrary to it. Thus each person does what a mighty power could not do, they continually and effectively redact all information that could change their mind or invoke any abnormal thought or activity. It also makes the population less unified because since all opinions, understandings, and beliefs are equal then truth becomes relative and reality debatable and consensus impossible. The best and the brightest are swamped and muted in a sea of the mad, the idiotic, and absurd as they are pulled down into just another member in the ongoing societal freak show. How effective is this? We went to war based on the most glaring of lies, we accepted that we torture now, and we still have human beings locked in an American gulag in Cuba that not only have not been charged with a crime but actually cleared by TWO presidents and yet still remain prisoners with no end in sight. We have in our prisons more people than any other society in human history. We actually call China a police state when we have more people incarcerated than they do. Not per capita but total — we have more people in prison than China. Those are just a few of the things that are life for us now. I do not have to worry about having such opinions or writing this or even doing a blog about it because my opinion is worthless and there will be a long line of my fellow citizens ready to tell me why up is really down, that war is really peace, and why a Christian nation actively oppresses the poor, sick, and outcast. Censorship is sooooo last century.

  • John H Newcomb

    RSF’s Press Freedom Index 2014 ranked Russia way down at #148 (https://rsf.org/index2014/en-index2014.php)
    – But according to Freedom House, in 2013 the Russian internet was still “partly free”, at ranking #54 (100 was worst of those ranked): http://www.freedomhouse.org/report/freedom-net/2013/russia#.U0qUvfldWSo

    – But how does one account for the intrusion of huge numbers of paid Putinist trolls on internet, garbaging the information flow and permitting Russia Today’s lies to reverberate through the trolls’ messages, along with the amplifying drums of sycophantic websites run by Putinist supporters in the West?

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