Slander websites face crackdown under new Duma measures

The Russian lower house has passed a bill allowing court bailiffs to restrict access to websites that refuse to delete slanderous information about citizens or businesses.

The bill changes the current situation, under which owners of websites that publish slanderous reports can be ordered to delete them and can be fined for refusal to comply, although there are no legal mechanisms that allow limits to users’ access to this information.

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The motion was drafted by MPs representing parliamentary majority party United Russia on Monday. At the Thursday hearings its sponsors said that “the specifics of data distribution on the internet require special legal mechanisms for execution of court rulings,” and that their draft was aimed at protecting the constitutional rights of Russians.

In 2013, the State Duma passed into law a bill that allows prosecutors to issue emergency orders to block websites promoting suicide, use of illegal drugs, civil unrest and racial hatred or extremism. The block is applied without a court warrant and should be removed after the site owner deletes the illegal content or after a court finds such content legal.

The law is applicable for websites hosted by servers in foreign jurisdictions as well. If the hosting company refuses to remove the content after the notification, it will be blocked in Russia.

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In mid-2015, President Vladimir Putin signed into law a bill introducing the ‘right to be forgotten’ – the possibility for internet users to have links to obsolete personal information deleted by indexing services operating in the Russian segment of the internet.

There are some exceptions: the law does not permit information concerning criminal prosecutions to be deleted or edited, even if the person has already served their prison term. Also, a state employee cannot demand that information on their personal income or property be hidden.

Search engines doing work on behalf of the government or local authorities are not subject to the new regulations.