Supreme Court objects to current ‘right to be forgotten’ internet bill

© Umit Bektas
The Russian Supreme Court has passed a negative review on the bill ordering search engines to delete links on false information about users at their request. The judges said that the fines in the draft were excessively large without any justification.

Business-oriented news agency RBC quoted deputy chairperson of the Supreme Court, Tatyana Petrova, as saying in the review that “the prevention of violations must be ensured through legal responsibility measures of similar scale and excessive state compulsion should not be allowed.”

Another objection was that the bill in its current form allows state watchdog Roskomnadzor to decide on the cases when internet search companies refuse to comply with court orders. The Supreme Court members hold that the punishment for such actions should be ordered by a judge.

Earlier, the chair of the upper house’s Constitutional Committee, Andrey Klishas, said that the bill lacked precise definitions of the minimum and maximum fines for not complying with the order to delete links to false or dated information.

The bill that orders all internet search engines to delete links leading to spurious or dated information about Russian citizens should they request it was passed by the State Duma on July 3 this year and signed into law by President Putin on July 14.

READ MORE: Putin signs ‘right to be forgotten’ bill into law

Refusal of internet companies to comply with the rules can be contested in court, including cases when the service provider is registered abroad. If the court proves that the data questioned by plaintiff is false or outdated, the search engine can be fined up to 100,000 rubles (under US$2,000).

The legislation, dubbed by media as ‘the right-to-be-forgotten bill’, was drafted in late May by MPs representing all four parties in the State Duma. The sponsors of the bill have emphasized in press comments that the restrictions only concerned the links given out by search engines and the bill did not order to delete the data itself.

Data companies, including Russian internet giant Yandex, objected to the new bill immediately after it was drafted, claiming its formula opened way to abuse and that the draft violated the constitutional right to freely seek, obtain and disseminate information.

The sponsors of the draft replied that it was in line with the most recent decisions of European legislatures and courts. In May 2014, a court in Luxembourg for the first time gave internet users the full right to ‘be forgotten’ and demand the deletion of links on their personal data by search engines.

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The process was prompted by the 2010 scandal in which a Spanish citizen searched his name and found an outdated 1998 newspaper article about his house being auctioned off due to debt. The man then claimed the information was no longer correct and demanded it be taken down. This process eventually caused Google to alter its rules and add a new tool for users to request their private information to be deleted.