Saturday, July 22, 2017

Russia cracks down on bloggers with registration requirements

A law passed by Russia's parliament that requires bloggers with more than 3,000 daily readers to register with the state-controlled mass media regulator Roskomnadzor recently took effect, drawing criticism from the online community.

Under the law, which was passed in April, internet companies are required to allow Russian authorities to access information on bloggers with a large number of subscribers. The law also requires that bloggers use their full legal names when registering online and further requires social networks to maintain six months of data on each of its users. The information on users kept by social networks must be stored on servers located within Russia's borders and are fully accessible by government authorities, BBC.com reports.

Many human rights groups are concerned that the new law will make bloggers, especially those who are critical of the federal government, especially vulnerable to privacy violations or susceptible to retaliation from those with whom they disagree.

"The internet is the last island of free expression in Russia and these draconian regulations are clearly aimed at putting it under government control," Human Rights Watch staffer Hugh Williamson said, according to BBC. "[The regulations represent] another milestone in Russia's relentless crackdown on free expression."

Some bloggers are using hacking codes to cheat systems that collect visitor metrics, allowing them to keep their daily unique visitor numbers under 3,000. Others are using a series of proxy servers to hide their visitor statistics altogether.

The Russian government passed a law earlier this year to allow federal agencies to completely block certain websites without explanation. The law was evoked in March to shut down a blog written by journalist Garry Kasparov, a vocal critic of the Russian government. The government also recently managed to block a Twitter user who repeatedly posted criticisms of the Kremlin, BBC reports.