Kremlin approves law to censor emails

The Russian government has approved a bill on the state regulation of email services that was put forward by a group of senators led by Andrey Klishas in October last year.

The bill, which requires providers to identify email users by passport and to block accounts which break the law, has received positive feedback from the cabinet of ministers.

Interfax reports that the government has approved Klishas’s idea in general, but has proposed to clarify the concept of “organizers of message distribution”. This is a status which currently applies to messengers and which, according to the project, should also apply to email services.

According to Klishas’s idea, messengers and email providers will be subject to the same requirements – to identify users by their telephone numbers, which must be linked to passport information according to the law “On communication”.

The services will also be obligated to restrict the transmission of messages which break Russian law. The manner of blocking will be determined by the government.

These measures are supposedly necessary due to the “mass distribution of knowingly false threats of terrorist acts” which are received by organs of state government and social or transport infrastructure, the bill’s description states.

Current legislation makes it possible for the distributors of anonymous threats to “conceal their personal information,” the bill’s authors write. They believe that passing the bill will “make it possible to significantly reduce the number of false terrorist messages, create legal conditions for prosecuting culprits, and reduce the economic damage”.

Violators will receive administrative punishments: fines of up to 5,000 rubles (around $80) for physical entities, 50,000 ($800) for officials and up to 1 million rubles ($16,000) for legal entities.

The bill was opposed by the Ministry of Communications, which said that the changes are technically impracticable, and would result in all users moving to foreign services and downloading VPNs, a source in the ministry explained to Vedomosti.

The source remarked that “no one has learned anything from the experience of blocking Telegram”, and that it is dangerous to pass laws which discredit the government in citizens’ eyes.

Klishas’s bill received unexpected negative feedback from the State Duma committee for state construction and legislation, which is chaired by Pavel Krasheninnikov. The committee said that the government is essentially proposing to “violate the postulate on the secrecy of correspondence” of its citizens and to “check the content of all messages on the internet for legality, which could significantly increase the costs of maintaining software and technical support” and will ultimately “lead to mass non-compliance with the requirement of the law”.

(c)UAWIRE 2020

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