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Russia Moves Forward on ‘Right to be Forgotten’ Bill Despite Industry Protests

Imaged edited by Tetyana Lokot.

Imaged edited by Tetyana Lokot.

Russian State Duma is moving fast on adopting new legislation that would require search engines to delete links to information and content based on user requests. The parliamentary committee on information policy has recommended that the first draft of the “right to be forgotten” bill be adopted in parliament on Thursday, June 11, according to an RBC report.

The new bill, introduced by lawmakers on May 29, creates a framework for a “right to be forgotten” in Russia that would require Internet search engines to delete links to data about individuals upon request, including information that is seen as false or erroneous. Links to credible information that is more than three years old could also be deleted. The only exception in this case is being made for criminal cases and proceedings whose term has not expired.

Lawmakers seek to impose fines on search engines that do not comply with the deletion requests: 100,000 rubles ($1,800) for not satisfying a removal request within three days or up to 3 million rubles ($54,700) if the search engine website does not delete links to the content even after a court order has been issued.

One of the bill's authors, Aleksey Kazakov, said search engines would only be obligated to delete links based on a court order, but would also have the option of taking them down voluntarily in accordance with a user's request. Another co-author of the bill, Vadim Dengin, claimed that “a person has the right to be represented online as they wish and to correct the search results if those represent their ‘wrong side.'”

The new legislation has faced criticism from the Russian Internet industry: search giant Yandex told the news website Meduza that such a law would violate constitutional rights to information and saddle search engines with unreasonable and unusual legal burdens. The offending information, Yandex believes, will remain online regardless, disseminated on websites like social networks.

Some commentators have expressed fears that the law could be abused in order to remove undesirable information from search results. Oleg Yashin, the vice-president of Russian Shield, an intellectual-property organization, said search engines might be required to purge or discriminate against search results containing blocked websites or illegal data.

The practice of deleting content from search results has been the subject of debate in many European countries. In May of 2014, the EU Court of Justice issued a landmark ruling in favor of the “right to be forgotten.” The ruling required Google to build a system that allows individuals in the EU to request that the company remove certain results from its searches when these results contain personal information that is either outdated or no longer considered “relevant.” While the Russian draft legislation has somewhat different provisions for types of content and reasons for deletion, it it raises similar concerns about the liability of information intermediaries and the potential opportunity for abuse of laws that regulate the Russian Internet.

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