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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Press Minister Seeks To Regulate Internet




A top government minister has come out in favor of tougher regulation in cyberspace, a move that critics say could tighten the state's control of the free flow of information.


Press Minister Mikhail Lesin on Monday called for new rules requiring the registration of local media outlets that use the net, saying they should be subject to registration in the same way any other media is under the law.


The sought-after requirement is part of a wieldy Internet bill being considered by the State Duma. That draft legislation seeks to regulate the registration of Internet addresses and could qualify all 30,000 Russian web sites as mass media.


The Center for Media Law in Moscow has warned that the vagueness of the wording "mass media" poses a serious challenge to free speech, since any Internet site could conceivably be considered mass media.


However, Lesin said Monday that he was targeting any web site that claimed to be a news agency or newspaper.


"As long as they identify themselves as mass media outlets, they should be subject to registration in compliance with the established order," Lesin said on radio station Ekho Moskvy.


Last month the Press Ministry said Internet registration was important for all parties concerned because only registered media can lawfully enjoy tax privileges.


The ministry also said at that time that it was working hand in hand with the Tax Ministry, which also favors the registration requirement, on proposals over imposing taxes on cyberspace.


President Vladimir Putin sought to squelch jitters over the Internet bill earlier this year by saying he would not sign the draft into law in its current form. But critics say Putin's words were far from soothing because he also said in the same breath that he would make sure that governmental moves to control information on the Internet would not get out of hand.


The Internet bill has been the subject of much debate since a draft copy was published on web site Provider Proof Review (www.provider.net.ru). Industry players say it does contain some positive steps, such as moves to ban junk e-mail and legitimize e-commerce. But it contains some head-shaking innovations. For example, the drafters have decided to throw out foreign words like "Internet" and "computer" in favor of the more Russified interset, or network, and elektronno-vychislitelniye, or electronic calculating machines.


Besides web registration, the bill has drawn heat for including a vague provision barring a user's access to the Internet if he "causes damage to other users" and a licensing requirement for companies offering "telecommunications services" that fail to specify which services they mean.