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Russian Lawmakers Take A Stand Against Fake News

News Brief

Long accused of being one of the main sources of the world’s fake news contagion, as well as meddling in the 2016 U.S. elections, Russia is now taking a stand against fake news, with lawmakers introducing a bill to crack down on anyone spreading falsehoods and disinformation at home.

If passed, Russian social networks and websites could face fines of up to 50 million rubles (about $800,000) if they don’t remove posts that regulators deem “factually inaccurate,” according to the New York Times.

But critics say that the proposed law will serve as another censorship tool for the government.

Under current law, social media users can already be penalized for content that is labelled as “extremist,” endangering public safety or as encouraging homosexuality, with punishments ranging from fines to prison time.

The bill, which was submitted by lawmakers from the governing United Russia party, targets websites or social media platforms with more than 100,000 daily visitors and a comments section.

It would also make it easier for the Russian authorities to force social media companies to cooperate with them by requiring them to have offices in Russia. U.S. giants such as Facebook and Twitter have so far resisted setting up offices there because of such concerns.

The law would give companies 24 hours to delete a so-called “inaccurate” comment after they had been notified.

Those who oppose the law say that the measure would also encourage companies to self-censor their output, preemptively deleting posts or comments that they think could irritate the authorities.

The bill now awaits two more readings after passing its first vote in the Duma, the Russian parliament.