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25 January 2021, 15:56

Russia initiates international convention on internet giants

Photo courtesy of TASS
Photo courtesy of TASS

MINSK, 25 January (BelTA) - The Committee for International Affairs of the Federation Council of the Russian Parliament recommends adopting a statement on the violation of the right to the freedom of expression and on censorship by global Internet companies at the plenary session of the Russian Parliament, TASS reports.

“Another proposal is to work out an international convention to regulate the operation of the global internet companies. It is clear that this is not an easy task. But it is important to raise this issue," said Aleksey Pushkov, chairman of the interim commission on information policy of the Federation Council, a member of the committee on constitutional law and state construction, a co-author of the draft statement.

The Russian senators call attention of legislators around the world to the urgency of drafting national legislation "to challenge the unlimited power and abuse of this power by global internet companies."

"Many support us on this. This echoes many sentiments. Australia is in the middle of a very serious conflict with Google and Facebook. The tech giants threatened to withdraw from the Australian market over the Australian legislation," said Aleksey Pushkov.

The Russian MPs will also call on international organizations, including the UN, UNESCO, OSCE, the Council of Europe to heed attention to this issue in order to prevent the advent of digital dictatorship. The Russian delegations to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe and the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly are also encouraged to raise this issue.

According to Aleksey Pushkov, the U.S. internet giants have embarked on widespread use of censorship, which runs contrary to the generally recognized right of citizens to search, receive and disseminate information. They also embarked on arbitrary and illegal blocking of alternative platforms. What is particularly dangerous is that restrictions on the freedom of speech are imposed not in accordance with the law but are based on decisions of the heads of internet companies, which are arbitrary and have no legal basis,” the Russian senator said.

The statement reads that usurpation of control over the internet is not a mythical threat, it is already a reality. “This usurpation is used not only to encroach on civil liberties and freedom of speech in the United States itself, it can also be used to shape public opinion, provoke internal political crises, influence the will of citizens and the outcome of elections in other countries,” Aleksey Pushkov said.

According to the MPs, the world wide web should ensure the freedom of speech and freedom of information. It should be regulated by law and should not be used an a political instrument of one government and its media monopolies.

In November 2020, Aleksey Pushkov, together with a group of members of the State Duma of the Russian Federation, submitted to the parliament a bill enabling the Federal Service for Supervision of Communications, Information Technology and Mass Media (Roskomnadzor) to block internet resources censoring Russian media. The bill introduces the status of ‘the owner of an information resource involved in violations of fundamental human rights and freedoms, the rights and freedoms of citizens of the Russian Federation'. The prosecutor general, in agreement with Russia's Foreign Ministry, can assign this status to the owner of an information resource that discriminates against materials posted by Russian media. Roskomnadzor may be authorized to partially or completely restrict access to such resources.

Since April 2020, the respective bodies of the Russian Federation have been receiving complaints from media outlets about censoring their accounts by the foreign internet platforms of Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. Such media outlets as Russia Today, RIA Novosti, Crimea 24 were subject to censorship; in total, about 20 facts of discrimination were recorded.

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