United Russia lawmaker proposes sanctions against mass media spreading fake news

United Russia lawmaker proposes sanctions against mass media spreading fake news
A Russian ruling party MP known for controversial pro-Christian initiatives has prepared a bill introducing fines for, and out-of-court blocking of websites that knowingly distribute fake news.

A long time ago the need arose for measures aimed at stopping distribution of fake news that can be, among other things, a tool for informational and psychological influence used for destabilizing the political and social situation in the country and threatening the informational security of the Russian Federation,” MP Vitaly Milonov (United Russia) wrote in a note attached to the draft law, as quoted by RIA Novosti.

To address these threats, the lawmaker wants to amend the Russian Law on Mass Media and the Law on Information as well as the Administrative Code.

The proposed amendment to the Law on Mass Media bans any concealment or falsification of information that is important for society as well as the distribution of false reports disguised as authentic ones.

The proposed amendment to the Administrative Code states that spreading falsified reports in mass media, including news sites on the internet should be punishable by fines of between 2000 and 2500 roubles  for ordinary citizens ($34.5 - $43 at the current rate), between 4000 and 5000 roubles for officials and from 40000 to 50000 for companies.

If the bill passes into law it would allow the blocking of access to websites with fake news after an order from a ministry or agency that will be determined during the parliamentary hearings.

In 2012 Russia introduced a law allowing state agencies to block internet pages without a court warrant. Initially, the law addressed internet sources containing child pornography, suicide instructions or those promoting drugs, but additions to the list have been made after various regional courts found certain sites and pages harmful or dangerous – including those that promote religious or ethnic hatred.

The ‘blacklist’ is operated by the country’s media and communications watchdog, Roskomnadzor. Under the law, once a website with illegal content is discovered, the agency must inform the owner of the source and their hosting-provider and demand that the prohibited information be removed.

MP Vitaly Milonov is best known as the main sponsor of the Russian law that bans the promotion of non-traditional sexual relations to minors, dubbed by the mass media as the “gay propaganda ban.” However, he has gained even more notoriety by numerous legislative initiatives that did not become laws, such as a ban on child beauty pageants, criminalizing prostitution and introducing fines for fake accounts in social networks. Milonov’s trademark is still the relentless anti-gay campaign, resulting in a suggestion to ban all Apple products in Russia because the company is headed by an openly gay CEO - Tim Cook.