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Social Networking Sites to Remove Incendiary Comments or Face Hefty Fines Under New Russian Legal Proposals

News Brief

A bill has been submitted to the Russian parliament which would require social networks and messenger services to remove defamatory statements or comments deemed to promote “war or national, racial and religious strife.”

If passed, the law would come into force on January 1, 2018 and would compel social networking sites to remove incendiary comments within 24 hours of receiving a complaint or face a fine of 30 to 50 million roubles ($495,000 to $825,000).

The draft bill, submitted by members of the ruling United Russia party, also stipulates that all social networks and messaging services with over 2 million registered users in Russia open a representative office in the country.

In recent years the Russian parliament has passed a number of restrictions on social media and online publishers including a 2016 law commonly referred to as “Yarovaya law” (named after one of its authors) which requires telecommunications and internet companies to retain copies of all content and communications for six months, including text messages, voice, data and images.

Freedom of expression advocates have described these raft of laws as “draconian” attempts to limit free speech online.

Dozens of Russians are believed to have been arrested and even imprisoned for their posts on social media.

An explanatory note submitted with the current bill states that it seeks to “preserve the informational function of social networking sites, but prevent them from being used for illegal means.”