Principles and Operations of the New Law on the Prohibition of Profanity in Social Networks and the Regulation of Their Activities
On February 1, 2021, a law came into force in Russia designed to suppress the use of obscene language on the Internet. Now obscene expressions, and even more obscene language, in social networks is officially banned. The administrations of the social networks themselves were obliged to control the behavior of users – they must identify and block obscene language.
In this article, we will look at what the innovations threaten for “careless” users and administrators of social networks – what responsibility is provided for the publication and dissemination of information with obscene language. And also – what preliminary conclusions can be drawn now.
Legal provisions of the Law on the prohibition of obscene language in social networks
Federal Law No. 530-FZ “On Amendments to the Federal Law” On Information, Information Technologies and Information Protection “” dated December 30, 2020, assigns to social networks the obligation to find and, within 24 hours, block any content containing obscene language.
The ban on the “unprintable word” in social networks immediately caused a great public stir and excited users. Many chat rooms have been flooded with questions, comments and links asking for an explanation of how “foul language” is officially classified.
If we talk about the roots of the Russian mat, then it should be noted that it is part of the obscene vocabulary – these are abusive, rude words that stand outside the framework of the literary language. In general, the history of obscene language reflects the history of the development of our language. For the most part, mate is a Russian phenomenon that arose in the course of the development of the language. Of course, like many phenomena of the Russian language, which has a deeper history and goes back to Proto-Slavic or Indo-European roots. Moreover, initially, the meaning of these lexical units was completely different. Now we, basically, one way or another associate them with the manifestation of sexual relations. Actually, mainly because of this, such words became at first taboo, and then – uncensored. Also, in the history of the language, these words had a completely different meaning associated with the designation of actions and objects of the surrounding world. Obscene language is quite varied. In addition to the traditional set of words, it can include some dialect words, and rough, reduced ones. Our everyday speech, to a greater or lesser extent, corresponds to literary norms. It resembles a pendulum – it swings in the direction of stricter adherence to norms, then – weak adherence to them. Now we are gradually emerging from the state of excessive use of all non-normative. Of course, profanity is part of the language. But it’s bad when we are different, otherwise, we cannot express a thought or emotion. ”
Dmitry Orlov, editor of Exiterra business blog, PhD in Philology
Federal Law No. 530-FZ applies not only to profanity. The list of publications subject to blocking is much broader. The responsibilities of the administrations of social networks now include the detection and removal of other prohibited information:
- Methods of suicide.
- Advertising of online casinos.
- Selling alcohol online.
- Call for the use of drugs, pornography.
- Call for participation in illegal protests, extremism, riots, etc.
Before considering directly the Law itself and its operation in practice, it is necessary to define what a “social network” is and by what criteria an Internet site can be considered such.
What is included in the concept of “social networks”
In Russia, the term “social network” is a site that has access to more than 500 thousand users during the day. For a resource to be recognized as a social network, the following requirements must be met:
- About the minimum audience.
- About the possibility to leave comments and access to an unlimited number of persons.
- On the possibility of placing advertisements on the network to attract the attention of Russian consumers (while the advertisement itself may not exist).
These requirements must be met in aggregate. For example, on the portal of the State Service, the requirement for attendance of more than 500 thousand users is observed, but advertising cannot be placed there, therefore this resource does not belong to social networks. But formal requirements include not only the well-known Odnoklassniki or VKontakte, but also popular forums or even message boards.
In this regard, Roskomnadzor will soon create a register of social networks. After the Internet site is included in this register, the administration of the social network must ensure the implementation of the new Law and update the rules for using the resource and familiarize its users with the changes in the policy.
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If the daily attendance of a social network falls below 500 thousand people in three months, then it can be removed from the Roskomnadzor register at the request of the resource owner. And after six months, the site can be excluded from the register due to low traffic automatically without the owner’s request.
Actions of the administration of the social network when publishing a post with violations
To combat obscene language, according to the new Law, the following work scheme is used:
- Within 24 hours, the administration of the social network must identify content containing obscene language and apply measures to it: delete or block the publication.
- The author of the post has been notified of violations.
- The author of the publication has the right to contact the administration of the social network to explain the reason for the blocking. And she, in turn, must provide an answer within three days.
Responsibility for mat is not legally provided for ordinary network users. The worst thing that threatens them is the deletion of the post from the social network.
Roskomnadzor is responsible for supervising the implementation of the Law. Social networks should not report to the authority on the fact of blocking, but should notify about the results of monitoring.
In case of disputable situations, social networks and users have the right to contact Roskomnadzor for clarifications. For example, an Internet site can check with the controlling authority whether it falls under the concept of a social network and, accordingly, whether a particular post is subject to blocking. Users, on the other hand, can complain to Roskomnadzor about blocking a post if, in their opinion, this is contrary to legal norms.
Responsibility for violation of the Law on the Prohibition of Profanity in Social Networks
The law is not repressive and is aimed at self-regulation of social networks. It aims to have administrators, editors and moderators voluntarily remove illegal content.
For the fact of admitted gaps in the monitoring of the social network will not be fined. But article 13.41 of the Code of Administrative Offenses (CAO), which appeared in Russian legislation shortly before the adoption of the new Law, may be involved. Roskomnadzor will be able to draw up reports of violations under this article if the content that contradicts legal norms is not deleted.
According to the provisions of Article 13.41 of the Administrative Code, the owner of the social network, as well as the hosting provider, at the request of Roskomnadzor, face fines:
- for individuals – from 50 thousand to 100 thousand rubles;
- for officials – from 200 thousand to 400 thousand rubles;
- for legal entities – from 800 thousand to 4 million rubles.
In case of repeated violation, the penalties will increase:
- for individuals – up to 100-200 thousand rubles;
- for officials – up to 500-800 thousand rubles;
- for legal entities – up to 1 / 20-1 / 10 of the amount of annual revenue, but not less than 4 million rubles.
The user can be punished not for the very use of the mat, but for humiliating the honor and dignity of another person on the Internet. This possibility of prosecution was provided for by Russian legislation earlier and is in no way connected with the new law. In Russia, swearing in public places (article 20.1 of the Code of Administrative Offenses) falls under the administrative article, provided that disrespect for society is expressed. An obscene expression that offends the honor and dignity of another person falls under the provisions of Article 5.61 of the Administrative Code “Insult”.
For an insult on the Internet, a fine for a citizen will be greater than for a verbal one: according to part 2 of Article 5.61 of the Administrative Code, liability is provided in the form of a fine of 5-10 thousand rubles.
Government regulation of Internet platforms
Denis Zavarzin, a member of the Public Chamber of the Russian Federation, director of the Center for the Study and Network Monitoring of the Youth Environment, suggested that Russians not wait until the law on self-regulation of social networks starts working in full force, and now independently check how and at what speed resources are fighting destructive content .
On February 25, 2021, the initiative group of the Public Chamber (OP) and the Council under the President of the Russian Federation for the Development of Civil Society and Human Rights (HRC) presented an anti-rating of social networks that are a source of destructive materials. Twitter turned out to be the “leader” in terms of distribution of content banned in Russia. The second place in the list of social networks-violators was taken by Facebook, the third – by Instagram. Next came YouTube and TikTok. The study was carried out in connection with the entry into force of the Federal Law No. 530-FZ.
According to the public figure, a new era in the regulation of the Internet space is just beginning: “We have started work on the self-regulation of social networks, but there are still no clear criteria by which access to this or that information should be blocked, although the parameters and the mechanisms for this blocking have already been defined. ”
Zavarzin urged users to take part in the online action. If you come across destructive, inaccurate or potentially dangerous content, inform the moderators of the social network about it and publish a post on your page about handling the hashtag # 24hours removal.
Another post the user needs to publish when the social network reacts to the message or a day after the first, if no action is taken. Thus, according to Denis Zavarzin, it will be possible to track which Internet platforms respond to the requests of their users faster and take measures to ensure their safety and comfort.
Denis Zavarzin also noted the importance and necessity of state regulation of online resources to combat extremism: “In theory, everything is simple: it is enough for platforms to adhere to the Law and common sense. And there will be no such situations. The rights of minors should be a priority regardless of country or political context.
In practice, we see that content moderation turns out to be an extremely opaque issue, which is regulated only at the level of the internal policy of the site itself.
The consequence of this selective approach to content blocking is that destructive video becomes available, and, for example, the microblog of the Russian vaccine Sputnik V is censored. ”
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Based on the analysis of the current situation in the vastness of the “World Wide Web”, government regulation of the activities of Internet platforms is necessary. Companies cannot independently decide what is “good” and what is “bad” based on controversial and subjective circumstances or simply personal “wishes”.
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