Alexander Khinshtein, head of the Duma Committee on Information, considers the fight against fakes to be the “cornerstone”
In recent years, Russians have already learned that any socio-political upheavals in neighboring states will inevitably lead to the adoption of laws that strengthen control over society. After mass demonstrations and riots in Kazakhstan, our authorities started talking about the fact that social networks “bring not only good, but also evil that needs to be stopped.” MK tried to figure out how effectively restrictions and bans work on the Russian Internet.
On January 10, 2022, at a session of the CSTO Council, President Putin, speaking about the events in Kazakhstan, threw a stone into the garden of social networks: there, according to him, there was and is recruitment to terrorist cells. And the press secretary of the president, Dmitry Peskov, on the same day, said the same phrase about the fact that in social networks there is good, and evil, and evil “needs to be stopped.”
As we know, in Kazakhstan, during the acute phase of the crisis, evil was stopped by radical means – turning off the mobile Internet and blocking instant messengers and social networks.
The head of the Duma Committee on Information Policy, Information Technologies and Communications, Alexander Khinshtein (ER), in a conversation with MK, said that “the situation in Kazakhstan clearly shows the influence of the Internet, the digital environment on modern society”, and the state in general and the parliament in particular should “create such a legislative framework that will protect our citizens from the risks of the digital environment, while leaving all the possibilities.”
According to Mr. Khinshtein, “fakes played a huge role in shaking the situation in Kazakhstan.” “Motivating” stuffing created the feeling that the position of the protesters was supported by the majority of citizens and their victory was inevitable. Information was circulating on the Web that all loans would be written off after the revolution. There were also reports that the security forces were massively handing over their weapons and going over to the side of the protesters. A classic fake that creates the impression that the end of the current government is near is a stuffing that the president has left the country. Reports that Tokayev and his family were evacuated appeared on the very first day of the unrest. But Tokayev did not fly anywhere and recorded regular video messages from his residence,” the deputy says. Fakes, he says, are “obvious evil” and are a problem that the governments of most world powers are now preoccupied with.
Do we need new laws to intensify this struggle in Russia? Mr. Khinshtein considers the Russian experience “in many ways an example” for other countries. In 2019, “anti-fake” changes were made to the law “On Information, Information Technologies and Information Protection”, as well as to the law “On the Mass Media”, and for the dissemination in the media and the Internet of “knowingly unreliable publicly significant information under the guise of reliable messages” administrative responsibility, providing for the possibility of blocking, by decision of Roskomnadzor, the Internet resources themselves that do not want to delete information recognized by the authorities as fake. When the coronavirus epidemic began, in the spring of 2020, administrative responsibility was supplemented by criminal responsibility.
Two new articles actually appeared in the Criminal Code at that time. One promises a fine of 300-700 thousand rubles, or even up to 3 years in prison for public dissemination of deliberately false information about what is happening during natural or man-made disasters, epidemics, natural disasters and about the measures taken by the authorities to combat them. For the same thing, but entailing grave consequences, another article of the Criminal Code raises the fine to a maximum of 2 million rubles and increases the term of possible imprisonment up to 5 years … In Russia, as you know, repost is also considered “public distribution”, threatening punishment . Or posting in the public domain information that two or three people have read …
Mr. Khinshtein calls the fight against fakes “a cornerstone in the world of digital information and high data transfer rates.” Much, he believes, depends here on the Internet sites themselves. In Russia, in 2020, a law on self-regulation of social networks is in force, which now themselves must identify and remove illegal content. But, the head of the committee states, “Unfortunately, Internet companies do not always treat this issue with due attention. Regulators' claims more often arise against foreign social networks, ”and Moscow courts began to impose substantial turnover fines for the systematic failure to remove prohibited information. Two well-known examples of the end of last year are the turnover fine of Google LLC in the amount of 7.221 billion rubles. and Meta Platforms Inc. (until recently – Facebook Inc.) in the amount of 1.99 billion rubles. The companies are going to challenge these fines.
At the same time, Mr. Khinshtein assures, “the policy of sanctions is not a priority for us, we always stand for a constructive dialogue.” To establish this dialogue and help in the fight against fakes, including the opening of official representative offices of foreign IT giants in the Russian Federation, he believes. Adopted last summer, the so-called. the law “on landing” obliged to open full-fledged representative offices in Russia by January 1, 2022. Only one social network, Singapore's Likee, declared its readiness to fulfill this requirement, which allows you to create and post short music videos with various effects and is very popular among children and adolescents. The office is being prepared for opening, the company reported on January 14, the application website contains an electronic form for communication with citizens and organizations, at the registration stage, and the company's personal account on the Roskomnadzor website. On the same day, it became known that such a giant as Apple also slowly began to “land”: the company's personal account was already registered on the RKN website.
The extreme measure provided by Russian laws for failure by social networks to comply with the requirements to remove prohibited or fake content, or for failure to comply with the requirements to “land” in Russia, is traffic slowdown and blocking.
If we also remember that fake information in Russia can be deleted promptly, out of court by decision of the Prosecutor General or his deputies … It turns out that there are already quite a sufficient number of laws in our country that allow us to regulate and control social networks and fight fakes. But how effectively they work is another question.
Does the threat of an administrative or criminal fine, or even imprisonment stop people from spreading sometimes really malicious and knowingly unreliable information fraught with dangerous consequences?
The leading lawyer of the RosKomSvoboda project, Sarkis Darbinyan, drew the attention of MK to the fact that “the articles on criminal and administrative liability for the dissemination of fake information are so similar that it is difficult to say where the administrative staff ends and the criminal begins – everything is at the mercy of law enforcement agencies , and the practice is such that two words in social networks can be considered as the dissemination of fake information. The expert believes that in our laws there are too many norms devoted to fines, criminal terms and blocking on the Internet, but “there is too little understanding of how to apply these norms correctly in practice.”
Fake information, he reminds, is such information that is obviously not reliable, and the person who distributes it knows that this is a lie. “Fake should be distinguished from a subjective opinion or judgment, which sometimes may not correspond to the actual circumstances, and it is very important that people are not punished for this, because after all, the right to freedom of opinion is protected by the Russian Constitution and the European Convention on Human Rights,” says Mr. Darbinyan. According to him, the main topic of administrative and criminal cases for spreading fakes on the Internet now is the coronavirus epidemic and vaccination. “There are cases where a person questioned the number of deaths in the region or doubted the sufficient number of vaccines,” he said.
Mr. Darbinyan believes that fakes should be fought in other ways – for example, by financing the fact -checking agencies (they check the accuracy of information) and constructively interacting with the Internet platforms themselves.
Lawyer Stanislav Seleznev, senior partner of the Network Freedoms project, told MK that the anti-fake articles of the Code of Administrative Offenses and the Criminal Code, which initially inspired law enforcement officers, are now rarely used. “In 2021, the wave of fake cases subsided, instead of two hundred there were a couple of dozen administrative cases, and instead of three dozen there was only one well-known criminal case,” he said.
The official statistics of the Judicial Department of the Supreme Court say the same: in 2020, 5 people were convicted in the country for fakes that did not entail serious consequences, and in the first half of 2021, three. According to the article of the Criminal Code, which was written for disseminators of false information, which entailed grave consequences, so far there has not been a single convict.
With the help of various punitive measures and blocking, the spread of fakes cannot be stopped, Mr. Seleznev agrees: “the only the way out is the constant timely issuance of complete and reliable information by the authorities. Like, yes, the protesters set fire to the administrative building, but the police in the city are working. So much has been detained… And blocking is a panic reaction, it causes only negative – fear or anger, depending on the mood.” “In our country, the authorities take a paternalistic position, that is, they smooth out or completely hush up the negative and stick out the positive. There is no such thing as the chief of police going out to journalists and saying: they say, yes, we made a mistake, we detained the wrong person, we will punish the guilty. Or the governor reported to the citizens – they say, we failed the state program for the resettlement of young families this year, therefore we are depriving the minister of construction of the bonus … ”, the expert states.