Earlier in the year Russian parliament agreed a new law requiring private bloggers who received a certain amount of visitors to be required to register their blog on a government register. The law was aimed at restricting the free flow of opinion online in answer to anti-government sentiment which was seen against Russian president Vladimir Putin between 2011-2013.
It has been argued that the move was intended to restrict freedom of speech by requiring those who run blogs with more than 3000 visitors per day to publish under their real name and register on the so called law on bloggers register. Part of the law requires that individual blogs are held to the same standards that general media outlets are required to adhere to.
This includes not publishing what is known as “false information” and also refraining from using fowl language. While bloggers are then required to follow such guidelines, they are not however offered the same rights as typical media outlets. Although the publishing of “false information” on the face of it seems like a rather good stipulation, it has to be remembered that Russian media outlets have been discovered to echo government sentiment in an eerily similar fashion.
A report published in April 2014 by Harvard University found that blogs in Russia between 2010-2011 were the most likely source to find independent political discussion and information with mainstream media, the general Russian internet community, newspapers and TV following the same tone of the Russian Government.
The law has reportedly been applied in a rather erratic manner which in the first week received 486 applications from bloggers of which only 11 were added to the official register. The very first site to find itself registered was a popular urban community blog on the Russian social media equivalent of Facebook, VKontakte called Yekaterinburg. Surprisingly the admin team of the group were surprised to be registered due to the fact that they did not apply directly themselves and it appears that their registration was done for them, by whom it is unknown.
While it is widely accepted that the law is aimed to stop criticism of the government it appears that Russian internet restrictions are on the increase. Following tension around the Snowden affair it appears that the Russian authorities were concerned that the west may want to cut Russia off from the internet. Russian newspaper Vedomosti reports that the country may introduce new measures to ensure the digital sovereignty of the country.
Rumour has it that due to the revelations from Edward Snowden, regarding the NSA mistakenly cutting Syria from the internet while trying to install an exploit at one of the major internet service providers, the Russian authorities want to introduce a system that requires ISPs to install a killswitch which would make it impossible for Russia to access the global internet and vice versa.
How well the bloggers law will be received amongst the Russian internet community will be left to be seen over the coming months however it is quite clear that more restrictions are likely to be put on free access to the internet inside Russia causing more users to look to ways of protecting their internet use via such methods of VPN use or the TOR network.