The Global Network Initiative urges Russian President Vladimir Putin to veto legislation that would restrict free expression and privacy rights online.
The “Information, Information Technologies and Protection of Information” amendment adopted by the Duma Tuesday, will go into effect in August if approved by President Putin. The legislation imposes stringent requirements on bloggers, requiring them to register with the authorities and face similar regulations to mass media. The amendment also reportedly requires Internet companies to locate customer data in Russia, where it can be accessed by state security and intelligence services.
GNI Board Chair Mark Stephens said, “This is a steep decline on an already slippery slope. If one state controls and censors dissent in this way, then others will sure follow all too quickly. The Internet is founded on freedom of thought and data: not locking it away in a gilded cage with only the Securitate having the keys.”
GNI previously warned against Russian legislation passed in 2012 said to be intended to block access to content harmful to children or extremist, a law that has been perverted for use during the past year to block political speech. Google reported a 125% increase in content removal requests from Russia in their most recent transparency report. Extensive blocking of independent news websites was reported in March 2014.
Alternative means of addressing legitimate law enforcement and national security concerns should be used that would also protect privacy and free expression. Rather than imposing onerous data retention and local storage requirements, governments should work together to improve the frameworks governing lawful requests for data across jurisdictions, such as Mutual Legal Assistance Treaties (MLATs).