Blogger Law Violations Go Unpunished in Russia

Images mixed by Tetyana Lokot.

Images mixed by Tetyana Lokot.

Violations of the Russian blogger law are going unpunished as law enforcement seems to care little for imposing fines on those who use swearwords, promote drug use, or offend someone's religious sensibilities while blogging.

Since the infamous ‘blogger law’ came into power in Russia seven months ago, the telecommunications watchdog Roscomnadzor has documented 67 violations in 53 of the blogs added to the new blogger registry. TJournal reports that 40 of them deal with profanity use in the blogs, 17—with “promoting drug use.” Other violations include calls of extremism, propaganda of Nazi symbols, and content offensive to sensibilities of religious persons.

Roscomnadzor's press-secretary Vadim Ampelonsky explained that the watchdog can only record the violations, but cannot dole out the punishment, since the law mandates that various law enforcement agencies are responsible for the repercussions.

Само ведомство этого делать не может, так как «санкции» предусмотрены не законом о блогерах, а другими нормами права: например, ФСКН может заставить отвечать за пропаганду наркотиков, а Генпрокуратура — за экстремизм.

Our institution cannot do this itself, as the “sanctions” are based not on the blogger law per se, but on other legal norms: for instance, Russia's Federal Drug Control Service can hold you responsible for drug use promotion, and the General Prosecutor's Office can enforce [sanctions] for extremism.

An interesting conundrum, according to Roscomnadzor, is that the Russian police doesn't consider the Internet a “public space,” so it sees no need to prosecute users for profanity and swearing in blogs. Ampelonsky said they're currently in discussions with representatives of the police force about whether administrative norms can and should apply to the online spaces.

The blogger law came into force on August 1, 2014 and tasked Roscomnadzor with adding all Russian bloggers with over 3000 unique daily views to a special registry. The bloggers, who were essentially equated with mainstream media, were banned from sharing unverified information, spreading calls to extremism and swearing. The popular bloggers were also obligated to disclose their personal information on their websites. Violations of the law would be punished with administrative fines.

On August 1, when the law gained force, the RuNet staged a symbolic protest, with many users deliberately adding profane hashtags, words and images to their tweets in order to demonstrate the law held no power over them.

On February 12, 2015, a Ukrainian MP proposed a draft law regulating blogger activity that was essentially a carbon copy of the Russian one. After a public outcry from journalists, free speech advocates and the Internet in general, the MP withdrew his proposal, citing peer pressure.

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