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Russia Clamps Down On Bloggers, Online Profanity

| 8 May 2014 00:20
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Russian President Vladimir Putin has approved a law requiring bloggers to register with the government, while a program designed to automatically stamp out online swearing is set to go live this fall.

The situation in Russia grew a little grimmer yesterday with the approval of a "blogger's law" that requires all bloggers and popular social media figures who receive 3000 or more hits per day to register with the government. Once registered, they will be held to the same standards as conventional news outlets, requiring them to fact-check and remove posts containing inaccurate information and forbidding any defamation of individuals or groups, or obfuscation of facts.

Mandatory truth-telling on the internet might not sound like an entirely bad idea, except that it's left up to the government to determine what is and is not true - and those found to be in violation of the government's guidelines face serious repercussions. Anonymous blogging is also out; under the law, registered bloggers must provide their initials, surname and email address, a real risk in a country widely recognized as one of the most dangerous in the world for journalists. Even without the potential for violence hanging overhead, the penalties for being in violation of the law are severe: Individuals face fines of $280 to $850, while "legal entities" could be hit with fines as high as $8500.

On an even more bizarre note, Russia is preparing to roll out a system that will search out and eradicate obscenity on the internet. Russian media watchdog Roskomnadzor currently does the job manually, monitoring roughly 5000 websites to ensure that they comply with an anti-obscenity law passed last year, but an automatic system is expected to be rolled out in the fall. Specifically proscribed words and phrases weren't given but according to the BBC, the law is aimed at "obscene references to the male and female reproductive organs, copulation and women of loose morals, and all words derived from them."

Reporters Without Borders ranked Russia at 148 out of 180 countries in its 2014 World Press Freedom Index, behind countries including Myanmar, Libya, Afghanistan and Venezuela.

Sources: The Verge

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