Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Friday, April 17, 2015

R U paranoid or just annoyed?

Caitlin Dewey blogs at the Washington Post about part of the effort in Russia to control Internet content.

Russia just made a ton of Internet memes illegal
In post-Soviet Russia, you don’t make memes. Memes make (or unmake?) you.

That is, at least, the only conclusion we can draw from an announcement made this week by Russia’s three-year-old media agency/Internet censor Roskomnadzor, which made it illegal to publish any Internet meme that depicts a public figure in a way that has nothing to do with his “personality.”…

“These ways of using [celebrities’ images] violate the laws governing personal data and harm the honor, dignity and business of public figures,” reads the policy announcement from Roskomnadzor.

To be clear, this isn’t a new law passed by parliament or anything — it’s just a (pretty startling) clarification of existing policy…

If that sounds crazy to U.S. readers, it probably should: U.S. law gives a very, very wide berth to Internet speech, even when it depicts private people or children — and especially when it depicts public figures.

Russia, on the other hand, has taken a series of steps to increase government control of the Internet in recent months. Just last August, Russia enacted a law that forced all bloggers with more than 3,000 daily readers to register with the Roskomnadzor, basically outlawing anonymous blogs. Earlier in the year, Russia approved a law that lets Roskomnadzor unilaterally block Web sites without explanation; the sites of prominent Putin critics were among the first to go dark…

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