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Fines for Violating Russia’s ‘Right to Be Forgotten’ Might Not Be So Stiff, After All

Fines for search engines for failure to respond to "right to be forgotten" requests might be less severe then expected. Images mixed by Tetyana Lokot.

Fines for search engines for failure to respond to “right to be forgotten” requests might be less severe then expected. Images mixed by Tetyana Lokot.

After passing legislation last week that would introduce a “right to be forgotten” on the Russian Internet, lawmakers in the Duma are now signaling that they will soften penalties for violating the terms of that law.

Leonid Levin, head of the Duma committee reviewing a bill that would establish fines for failing to comply with “the right to be forgotten,” told the news agency RBC that the bill’s current language needs to be changed. As it was submitted to the Duma, the legislation would automatically fine any Internet search engine 300,000 rubles ($5,300), if a court finds that it refused a lawful request from an individual to delete links to certain kinds of personal information. If a search engine refuses to comply after a court order, penalties can be as high as 3 million rubles ($53,400).

“The rule is excessive and certainly needs to be reformed,” Levin explained, saying the bill would likely be reworded to levy fines only after a search engine refuses to comply with a court order to delete links identified according to the “right to be forgotten” protocol. In other words, Internet companies would not need to fear that refusing an individual’s takedown request could result in an automatic fine.

A representative from Mail.ru Group told RBC that easing the fines associated with the “right to be forgotten” would be a step in the right direction, though the company still opposes the legislation fundamentally.

Last Friday, on July 3, the Russian Duma passed the final draft of legislation that would make it possible for individuals to force Internet search engines to delete links to certain kinds of information about them. Once the parliament’s upper house passes this bill, it goes to President Vladimir Putin, who is expected to sign it.

In May 2014, the Court of Justice of the European Union found that individuals have the right to ask search engines like Google to remove certain results about them. Since that decision, Google alone has evaluated more than 1 million URLs for removal (identified in more than 279,000 requests), removing 41.3 percent of those links.

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