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Some Clarity on New Russian Blogger Regulations

Nikita Khruschev and Dmitry Medvedev. Anonymous image found online.

Nikita Khruschev and Dmitry Medvedev are both interested in high-tech. Anonymous image found online.

The Russian agency in charge of regulating the Internet, Roskomnadzor, has released a new document detailing how laws governing blogs will operate when they comes into effect later this summer. Previously, it was unclear how exactly Roskomnadzor would determine “popular” bloggers — defined as webpage owners and social network users with more than 3,000 daily unique visitors.

According to proposed regulations, released to the public on June 10, 2014, bloggers will have to self-report their daily unique visitors upon a request from Roskomnadzor. If they are unable or unwilling to fulfill this request, Roskomnadzor can resort to using online traffic measurement services (presumably similar to Alexa Ranking), or to other proprietary “programs” which can perform the required tasks. Roskomnadzor also names itself as the authority of last resort in any disputes over the numbers of daily unique visitors (through an internal Commission). Finally, in order to qualify as a “unique visitor,” an Internet user has to be present on a webpage for 15 seconds or more.

If these regulations appear to be clunky and difficult to implement, they are. Roskomnadzor is attempting to make sense of the letter of a law which left all technical details out when it passed the State Duma. Yet, it's still unclear how the daily audience of a Facebook account can be determined, since, for example, readers can read posts from their own “timelines” without ever visiting the account in question. The criteria Roskomnadzor will use when deciding which websites need to provide it with viewership information are also a mystery. If this decision-making process is left opaque, it will certainly be open to abuse — like, say, the targeting of political bloggers, all too common in the past months.

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