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Russia: Lawmaker Wants to Regulate Social Networks

In the echo-chamber of RuNet it is easy for bloggers to fall prey to sensationalist headlines. A case in point:

A few days ago several bloggers were incensed by the idea that a Duma committee responsible for legislating the internet was going to propose a new law [ru] requiring passport identification for users of social networks. After past attempts to regulate the Russian internet, such news is easy to believe. Anton Nosik, media-director of SUP, the Russian company that runs LiveJournal, immediately posted a rant [ru] on his blog, ridiculing the logistical challenges of such broadly reaching regulation:

…обязать Twitter, Фейсбук, Google или тот же ЖЖ отказывать новым пользователям в регистрации без российского паспорта и заблокировать десятки миллионов уже существующих аккаунтов — полностью бредовая и фантастическая затея, которую смешно даже обсуждать. Следовательно, паспортизация невозможна без полной блокировки доступа россиян к зарубежным площадкам.

…to make Twitter, Facebook, Google and LiveJournal refuse to register new users without a Russian passport, and to block tens of millions of current accounts – is a wholly rabid and fantastical endeavor, which isn’t even worth talking about. Consequently, “passportisation” is impossible without a complete blockage of Russian access to foreign platforms.

Anton Nosik in 2009. November 25, 2009. © Dmitry Rozhkov. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Nosik ended on a hopeful note: according to him the Russian agencies that would be potentially tasked with enforcing such laws are so inept that enforcement would be lax, or never actually happen. He reminded the readers about similar regulations proposed by the Ministry of Communications three years ago, which in the end led nowhere.

Indeed, given the tendency of the Russian government to come up with spurious legislation ideas (like St. Petersburg’s recent law against the “propaganda of homosexuality”) it’s hard to blame bloggers when they take these ideas seriously. In this case however, it is a clear case of false alarm. Although Nosik and others reported that it was the Duma Committee on Information Policy that proposed this new legislation, in fact it was the idea of a junior committee member, Vadim Dengin of LDPR. Committee chair, Alexei Mitrofanov has publicly registered his disagreement [ru] with the idea:

Это инициатива депутата Вадима Деньгина. Я отношусь к этой постановке отрицательно [...] Более того, я думаю, что не будет поддержано большинством, потому что элементы китайской системы особенно нас не прельщают. Никто не собирается ставить китайскую стену. Никто не хочет цензуры в интернете. Но почему-то это ставится как инициатива комитета, меня зачем-то приплели.

This is the initiative of Deputy Vadim Dengin. My opinion of this proposal is negative [...] Furthermore, I think it won't be supported by the majority, because we are not really attracted to elements of the Chinese system. No one wants to create a “Chinese wall.” No one wants censorship on the internet. But, for some reason this is presented as a committee initiative, and I got dragged in for some reason.

Vadim Dengin's rarely updated VKontakte page. How do we know it's really him? Screenshot. October 15, 2012.

Perhaps Dengin, who leads the LDPR youth wing, wanted to make a name for himself by stirring up some controversy. He defended his ideas [ru] on Twitter:

@mdvorkovich честному человеку нечего скрывать…поэтому ищем вариант реального подтверждения регистрации реального пользователя

@mdvorkovich an honest person has nothing to hide…so we are looking for a way to actually confirm the registration of an actual user

The statement that people have nothing to hide is not too dissimilar from Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg's ideas of privacy, which he has also been criticized for. If Dengin's proposal really never sees the light of day, we can be sure to expect more controversial proposals from him in the future.

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