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Policy analysis final Document Transcript

  • 1. SIS  645.  Summer  2013   International  Communication  and  Cultural  Policy   Dr.  Shalini  Venturelli     The  2012  Amendments  to  the  Federal  Law  on  Protecting   Children  from  Information  Harmful  to  Their  Health  and   Development  and  Certain  Legislative  Acts  of  the  Russian   Federation  (Federal  Law  No  139)           Analytical  report  for  The  Children  Protection  Foundation   This  report  serves  academic  purposes.  The  Children  Protection  Foundation  is   an  organization  simulated  for  the  class  as  a  proxy  name  for  UNICEF.     UNICEF  is  The  United  Nations  Children's  Fund,  which  works  for  children's   rights,  their  survival,  development  and  protection  (www.unicef.org)     Yulia  Koval-­‐Molodtsova   July  1,  2013  
  • 2.   2   Table  of  contents       I.  Executive  Summary                   3     II.  Policy  Overview     A.  Context                     4   B.  Main  Policy  Provisions               5-­‐6     III.  Policy  Concerns,  Analysis  and  Implications               A.  Policy  Concerns  and  Gaps               6-­‐8     B.  Policy  Analysis  and  Implications             8-­‐10     IV.  Recommendations  and  Conclusions             10-­‐11     V.  References                     12          
  • 3.   3   I.  Executive  Summary       The  Russian  Federal  Law  No  139,  passed  in  July  2012,  provides  amendments  to  the   2010   Federal   Law   on   Protecting   Children   from   Information   Harmful   to   Their   Health   and   Development  and  several  other  legislative  acts  on  information  and  communication.  The  law   caused  controversy  both  in  Russia  and  abroad,  because  it  introduced  a  new  procedure  for   protecting   children   from   accessing   inappropriate   content   online   –   a   unified   register   or   a   blacklist  of  certain  web  sites.     Many  bloggers  and  media  policy  experts  perceived  it  as  a  way  for  Russian  government   to  gain  greater  control  over  the  Internet  -­‐  namely,  to  create  favorable  setting  for  continuous   Internet  censorship.  One  of  the  main  dangers  of  the  law  was  seen  in  the  vague  descriptions  of   what  can  be  harmful  for  children  (though  some  of  these  vague  definitions  were  taken  out  or   clarified   in   its   final   version).   Another   widely   discussed   threat   of   the   new   law   was   that   it   legalized  blocking  access  to  certain  websites  without  court  ruling.  It  also  doesn’t  provide  a   transparent  procedure  for  expertise  of  the  web  sites.   This   report   serves   to   provide   an   analytical   assessment   of   the   law,   its   gaps   and   contradictions   of   the   policy   application   in   regards   to   its   stated   objectives,   as   well   as   its   underlying  assumptions  and  current  social,  political  and  cultural  implications.    The  report   presents  and  discusses  recent  expert  opinions  and  comments,  provides  policy  analysis  and   concludes   with   key   findings,   recommendations   and   implications   for   future   research   and   policy  development.        
  • 4.   4   II.  Policy  Overview   A.  Context     The   Russian   government   started   discussing   the   bill   on   June   7,   2012   and   it   has   been   approved  and  passed  as  the  Federal  Law  No  139  on  July  28,  2012.  While  it  was  still  being   discussed  in  the  State  Duma,  Russian  Wikipedia  and  several  more  renowned  sites  and  social   networks  blocked  their  web  sites  for  a  day  to  protest  against  the  passing  of  the  law.     Despite   the   controversy   and   criticism   of   industry   and   media   experts,   the   law   was   passed  and  went  into  effect  in  November  2012.    The  Federal  Service  for  Supervision  in  the   Sphere   of   Telecommunications,   Information   Technologies   and   Mass   Communications   (Roskomnadzor)   was   put   in   charge   of   creating,   developing   and   managing   a   nationwide   register  of  the  web  sites,  which  contain  information  that  can  be  harmful  for  children.  The   register   was   launched   in   November   2012   at   http://zapret-­‐info.gov.ru   (which   can   be   translated  as  “banned-­‐info”).       B.  Main  Provisions       As  the  full  text  of  the  law  is  not  available  in  English,  a  detailed  overview  is  included  into   this  report  and  provided  below.     Article  1*  of  the  Federal  Law  No  139  is  devoted  to  the  amendments  to  the  previous  Law   on  Protecting  Children  from  Information  Harmful  to  Their  Health  and  Development  (passed   in   December   2010).   The   previous   law   focused   primarily   on   content   labeling   and   recommended   age   restrictions.   The   amendments   include   corrections   in   regards   to   the   symbol,   language   and   procedures   of   content   labeling.   There   are   several   corrections   and                                                                                                                   *  Full  text  of  the  Federal  Law  No  139  in  Russian:  http://rg.ru/2012/07/30/zakon-­‐dok.html  
  • 5.   5   additions   that   place   more   of   a   focus   on   the   importance   of   Internet   access   regulation:   for   example,   Art.   1.7   states,   “Internet   sites   will   contain   information   on   recommended   age   restrictions   for   viewers   and   requires   limits   on   access   to   prohibited   information   in   public   places  where  children  can  access  the  Internet”  (Roudik,  2012,  November  6).     Article  2  is  devoted  to  the  change  in  the  Law  on  Communication  (2003).  It  imposes  the   responsibility   for   both   access   restriction   and   reinstatement   on   Internet   service   providers   and  telecom  operators.   Article  3  describes  the  amendments  to  the  Law  on  Information,  Information   Technology  and  Information  Protection  (July,  2006).  This  article  is  the  most  controversial   one  as  it  is  primarily  devoted  to  Internet  content  regulation.  As  described  in  the  official   government  statement,  “the  federal  law  provides  for  the  establishment  of  a  Unified  Register   of  Domain  Names,  Universal  Page  Selectors  and  Internet  Addresses  that  Allow  for  the   Identification  of  Websites  Containing  Information  whose  Dissemination  is  Prohibited  in  the   Russian  Federation”  (President  of  Russia,  2012,  July  31).    The  web  sites  containing  the   following  types  of  information  are  considered  to  be  harmful  to  children  and  subject  to  be   officially  blacklisted  (Art.  3.5):   1. Pornographic  images  of  children  or  announcements  on  involvement  of  children  in   pornographic  acts   2. Methods   of   production   and   use   of   drugs,   psychotropic   substances   and   precursor   chemicals,  and  places  to  buy  and  grow/produce  such   3. Ways  to  commit  suicide  and  information  that  incites  suicides.   The   assigned   Register   operator   (Roskomnadzor)   is   to   monitor   the   online   content   in   cooperation  with  other  government  agencies  (e.g.  dealing  with  drug  control)  and  to  respond  
  • 6.   6   to   web-­‐content   related   complaints   from   individuals.   The   Register   operator   is   to   inform   a   web-­‐hosting  company  about  a  harmful  web  site,  and  a  web-­‐hosting  company  is  to  inform  the   web  site  owner  about  the  necessity  of  the  content  removal  within  24  hours  and  block  the   web   site   if   the   content   (or   site)   is   not   removed   after   24   hours.   If   this   information   is   not   removed,  the  web  site  is  to  be  included  in  the  Registry.  As  soon  as  the  site  is  in  the  Register,   Internet  service  provider  is  to  block  the  access  to  the  web  site.  A  decision  to  include  a  web   site   in   the   Registry   can   be   appealed   to   a   court   within   a   three-­‐month   period   by   website   owners,  web  hosting  companies,  Internet  service  providers  and  telecom  operators.   Article  4  identifies  that  Articles  2  and  3  are  to  come  into  effect  on  November  1,  2012.     III.  Policy  Concerns,  Analysis  and  Implications   A. Policy  Concerns  and  Gaps   As  the  central  main  goal  of  this  policy  is  to  protect  children  from  harmful  content  in  the   Internet,  it  is  important  to  consider  some  of  the  existing  research  and  experience  of  Internet   content  regulation,  including  that  for  the  sake  of  children.     When approached by Russian authorities with a request to remove a page devoted to suicides in March 2013, Facebook checked the information and blocked the content, thus complying with the new regulations. According to The New York Times, Facebook issued a statement that included examples of similar cases in the other countries, such as Germany or France, “where it blocks content related to Holocaust denial” or in Turkey, “where content defaming the country’s founder, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, is blocked” (Kramer, 2013, March 31).
  • 7.   7   Ross  provides  the  following  data  on  the  general  Internet  content  regulation  throughout   the  world:     “According  to  the  Open  Net  Initiative,  more  than  forty  countries  now  practice   Internet   filtering   to   some   extent.   Governments   now   understand   that   Web   2.0   applications   like   YouTube   and   Facebook   enable   the   quick   spread   of   information.   Given  the  viral  nature  of  this  information,  governments  will,  at  times,  block  access  to   entire  sites  instead  of  selectively  removing  content  after  it  has  been  posted”  (Ross,   2010,  p.10).   Freedman  describes  the  US  content  regulations  in  regards  to  obscenity  and  indecency   in  children's  programming  and  quotes  the  US  law  on  broadcast  indecency  (Section  1464  of   title  18  of  the  US  code):  "whoever  utters  any  obscene  indecent,  or  profane  language  by  means   of   radio   communication   shall   be   fined   under   this   title   or   imprisoned   not   more   than   two   years,   or   both"   (Freedman,   2008,   p.   128).     Freedman   points   out   that   "the   most   severe   consequence  of  the  indecency  campaign  is  not  the  baffling  application  of  the  rules,  not  the   inconvenience  to  broadcasters,  but  its  contribution  to  a  "chilling"  of  free  speech"  (Freedman,   2008,  p.  134).       Similarly,  many  experts  have  expressed  concern  about  violations  of  freedom  of  speech   and   expression   under   the   new   Russian   Law.   The   Freedom   House   report   provides   the   following   data:   “More   than   180   sites   were   shuttered   soon   after   the   law   came   into   force,   including  a  satirical  encyclopedia  and  an  electronic  library  on  the  grounds  that  they  carried   material  about  marijuana  and  suicide”  (Orttung,  2013).    It  is  important  to  note  that  general   public  cannot  access  the  actual  list  of  banned  sites  on  the  assigned  government  portal.  The   only  available  options  are  to  check  if  a  site  is  included  by  means  of  sending  a  request  online   or  to  suggest  a  site  for  being  banned.    This  lack  of  transparency  may  lead  to  the  situation  
  • 8.   8   when  by  checking  one’s  site  on  the  unified  register  portal  one  automatically  puts  it  in  the  list   of   suspicious   web-­‐resources.   The   Freedom   House   expert   also   explains,   “The   technology   required  to  implement  the  law,  deep-­‐packet  inspection,  will  greatly  increase  the  ability  of  the   authorities  to  monitor  content  transmitted  across  the  Internet”  (Orttung,  2013).   A  recent  Google  Transparency  report  states  that  the  requests  for  information  removal   from  Russian  government  went  up  significantly:    “In  the  first  half  of  2012,  we  received  six   requests,  the  most  we  had  ever  received  in  any  given  six-­‐month  period  from  Russia.  But  in   the  second  half  of  the  year,  we  received  114  requests  to  remove  content—107  of  them  citing   this  new  law”  (Google  Transparency  Report,  2013).  At  the  same  time  Russian  experts  point   out   serious   flaws   in   legal   definitions   of   harmful   content   and   expert   review   procedures:   "There  are  no  legal  definitions  of  pornographic  images  of  minors  or  information  that  incites   suicide,  and  the  expert  review  procedure  is  not  at  all  transparent,  creating  the  conditions  for   arbitrary   and   ungrounded   restriction"   (Gainutdinov   and   Chikov,   2013,   February   9).   Moreover,   there   have   been   concerns   that   the   outlined   procedure   may   lead   to   continuous   mistakes   in   blocking,   as   well   as   cause   harm   to   the   Internet   resources   with   legal   content,   which  will  significantly  damage  Russian  Internet  business  (Russian  Presidential  Council  for   the  Development  of  Civil  Society  Institutions  and  Human  Rights,  2012,  July  9).     B.  Policy  Analysis  and  Implications   In  regards  to  the  existing  communication  policy  models  this  law  can  be  attributed  to  the   nationalist-­‐cultural  model  (Venturelli,  2013).  The  notion  of  solidarity  in  regards  to  protecting   children   from   abusive   content   is   the   headline   of   this   policy,   which   is   an   important   characteristic   of   the   public   sphere   in   the   national-­‐cultural   model.   Also,   this   policy   implies   extensive  state  intervention  in  content  regulation,  and  it  leads  to  the  results  when  collective   identity   may   take   precedence   over   individual   rights   (Venturelli,   2013).   There   are   some  
  • 9.   9   features  of  public  service  model  in  this  policy  as  well  -­‐  in  regards  to  the  government  acting  in   the  interest  of  its  citizens  and  stepping  in  when  there  are  cases  of  abuses  (Venturelli,  2013).   The   underlying   assumptions   provided   in   the   recent   amendments   build   upon   the   existing   experience   of   content   regulation,   in   particular,   that,   which   may   be   harmful   for   children.  At  the  same  time  the  fact  that  a  separate  register  is  created  leads  to  suggestions  of  a   wider  policy  application.  This  creates  a  contradiction  between  the  stated  policy  goals  and  its   fulfillment.  The  main  political  implication  of  this  law  is  that  it  may  be  considered  as  a  large   step  towards  an  Internet  censorship  campaign  in  Russia.     There  has  already  been  a  reaction  from  Russia’s  Pirate  Party  that  created  a  so-­‐called   “pirate  hosting  web  site”†  to  be  officially  launched  on  July  1,  2013.  It  plans  to  offer  hosting  to   Internet  web  sites  that  are  mistakenly  included  into  the  register  -­‐  for  example,  because  of   sharing  IP  addresses  with  domains  that  were  banned.  The  main  idea  as  stated  on  the  web  site   is   to   provide   a   platform   for   the   information   that   some   governments   or   corporations   may   wish   to   conceal.   It   is   also   explained   that   there   would   be   no   child   pornography   or   spam   allowed,  so  they  would  comply  with  the  universal  principles  of  protecting  children.   As   for   the   social   and   cultural   implications,   the   results   of   the   Levada   Center   poll   demonstrate   a   high   level   of   support   of   the   Russian   population   in   regards   to   the   Internet   content  monitoring  and  regulation  for  children’s  protection  (Dymov,  2012,  October  16).  This   means  that  the  current  legislative  actions  are  most  likely  to  be  approved  by  the  majority  of   Russian   population,   which   confirms   the   implications   about   the   dominant   communication   policy  models  in  regards  to  this  law.                                                                                                                   †  http://piratehost.net  (in  Russian)  
  • 10.   10   ‡     IV.    Recommendations  and  Conclusions     The   Russian   Federal   Law   No   139   (July   2012)   has   changed   the   procedures   for   monitoring,  evaluating  and  excluding  the  online  content,  which  is  considered  damaging  for   children’s  health  and  development.  Most  of  the  introduced  initiatives  are  based  on  similar   international   experience   on   protecting   children   from   harmful   content   and   comply   with   international  principles  for  the  balanced  child  development  (supported  by  UNICEF  and  other   recognized   international   organizations   protecting   children’s   rights).   However,   the   introduction  of  a  unified  register  is  a  measure  that  goes  beyond  the  protection  and  safety  of   children.   Moreover,   it   requires   substantial   efforts   on   behalf   of   the   government,   Internet   service  providers,  web  site  owners,  and  citizens  in  order  for  the  policy  to  be  efficient.     The   analysis   of   the   policy   showed   that   the   country   neglected   to   obtain   expert   recommendations  on  the  amendments.  As  a  result,  there  are  serious  flaws  that  decrease  the                                                                                                                   ‡  The  infographics  was  developed  by  Russia  Beyond  the  Headlines  and  presented  under  the  fair  use  conditions  
  • 11.   11   positive  effect  of  the  introduced  measures  to  protect  children  from  harmful  content  in  the   media.   Though   the   efforts   on   regulating   content   for   children   has   been   always   largely   supported  by  populations  throughout  the  world,  including  in  Russia,  such  efforts  need  to  be  a   part   of   a   more   complex   structure   that   deal   with   social   and   cultural   aspects   of   illegal   or   harmful  information  (such  as  the  one  on  pornography,  drugs  or  suicide).       As  Russian  experts  conclude  in  the  UNICEF  report  devoted  to  adolescent  deaths  from   suicide  in  Russia,    “It  has  been  established  that  no  single  risk  factor  is  likely  to  be  sufficient  to   cause   a   death   from   suicide   unless   it   is   combined   with   other   factors”   (UNICEF   Report   Summary,  2011).  Moreover,  a  stand-­‐alone  “blacklist”  strategy  may  lead  to  the  reverse  effect  -­‐   an   increased   interest   towards   the   banned   content   among   children   and   adolescents.   With   UNICEF  no  longer  being  present  in  Russia  since  2012,  national  initiatives  focused  on  relevant   education,  recreation,  psychological  support  and  empowerment  of  children  preventing  them   from  turning  to  harmful  content  should  come  in  place  of  the  projects  realized  by  UNICEF.   With   the   developments   of   this   law   enforcement   and   introduction   of   other   content   regulation  initiatives  and  policies  in  Russia  in  2013  (e.g.  on  fighting  online  piracy,  protecting   children   from   information   on   homosexuality   or   monitoring   social   networks   for   criminal   cases),  more  responsibility  is  handed  over  to  Internet  service  providers  and  owners  of  the   web   sites.   Given   that,   the   expert   review   process   needs   to   be   better   defined   and   include   international   standards   and   expertise   in   order   to   avoid   blocking   mistakes.   Finally,   technological   flaws   should   be   taken   into   serious   consideration,   as   current   procedures   including   blocking   domains   and   IPs   are   internationally   recognized   as   inefficient   and   insufficient   in   fulfilling   the   main   goal   of   the   law   –   protecting   children   from   harmful   information.      
  • 12.   12   V.  References     Dymov,  Oleg.  (2012,  October  16).  Most  Russians  support  censorship  online.     Retrieved  from  Russia  Beyond  The  Headlines:   http://rbth.ru/articles/2012/10/16/most_russians_support_censorship_online_1916 3.html     Freedman,  Des.  (2008).  The  politics  of  media  policy.  Cambridge,  UK:  Polity.     Gainutdinov,  Damir  and  Pavel  Chikov.  (2013,  February  4).  Russia  -­‐  a  global  threat  to  Internet   freedom.   Retrieved   from   Russian   Human   rights   organization   Agora:   http://agora.rightsinrussia.info/archive/reports/global-­‐threat     Google  Transparency  Report.  (2013).  Retrieved  from:       http://www.google.com/transparencyreport/removals/government     Kramer,  Andrew  E.  (2013,  March  31).  Russians  Selectively  Blocking  Internet.  Retrieved  from   The  New  York  Times:  http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/01/technology/russia-­‐ begins-­‐selectively-­‐blocking-­‐internet-­‐content.html     Orttung,  Robert  W.  (2013).  Nations  in  Transit  2013:  Russia.  Retrieved  from  Freedom  House:     http://www.freedomhouse.org/sites/default/files/NIT13_Russia_1stProof.pdf     President  of  Russia.  (2012,  July  31).  Amendments  to  the  law  on  protecting  children  from   information  harmful  to  their  health  and  development.  Retrieved  from  Kremlin.ru:   http://eng.kremlin.ru/acts/4246   Ross,  Alec.  (2010).  Internet  Freedom:  Historic  Roots  and  the  Road  Forward.  The  SAIS  Review   of  International  Affairs,  30(2),  3-­‐15.     Roudik,   Peter.   (2012,   November   6).   Russian   Federation:   Monitoring   for   Prohibited   Web   Content.  Retrieved  from  The  Library  of  Congress:   http://www.loc.gov/lawweb/servlet/lloc_news?disp3_l205403391_text     Russian   Presidential   Council   for   the   Development   of   Civil   Society   Institutions   and   Human   Rights.  (2012,  July  9).  Statement  of  the  Council  members  in  respect  to  the  bill  №  89417-­‐ 6   "On   Amendments   to   the   Federal   Law"   On   protecting   children   from   information   harmful   to   their   health   and   development".   Retrieved   from:   http://www.president-­‐ sovet.ru/council_decision/council_statement/zayavlenie_chlenov_soveta_v_otnosheni i_zakonoproekta_89417_6.php  (in  Russian)     UNICEF  Report  Summary  (2011).    Adolescent  deaths  from  suicide  in  Russia.  Retrieved  from:   http://www.unicef.org/ceecis/Adolescent_deaths_from_suicide_in_Russia_-­‐ _Summary_2011.pdf     Venturelli,  S.  (2013).  Global  Communication  Policy  Models  [PowerPoint  slides]