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Russian parliament to bolster penalties for spread of fake news

Russian parliament to bolster penalties for spread of fake news
By Rachael Kennedy
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Russia's Duma is set to vote on two new bills that bolster penalties handed down to those who are involved in the spread of fake news


Russia's State Duma is set to vote on several bills introduced Wednesday to bolster penalties for those spreading false information on the internet or "expressing obvious disrespect" for society and state officials.

The bills are amendments to current laws against expressing disrespect in public spaces, which maintain that the internet also qualifies under the public bracket.

The first bill, proposed under "petty hooliganism," specifically mentions the dissemination of information "in indecent form, expressing obvious disrespect" for society, state officials, the Russian Constitution and Russian state authorities.

If the information shared does not contain anything pointing towards a criminal offence, a person could be fined up to five thousand rubles (€66) or jailed for up to 15 days.

However, the second bill looks to the source of information "expressing obvious disrespect," proposing that Russian officials may block or restrict access to such pages on the web.

A third bill proposes a specific crackdown on the online dissemination of fake news.

For the distribution of "obviously false, socially significant information disseminated under the guise of reliable messages that pose a threat to life and/or health of citizens, mass violation of public order and/or public safety" a fine of up to 1 million rubles (€13,000) could be incurred.

For individual civilians, the proposed fine for spreading false information would be between 3,000 - 5,000 rubles (€40-€66). For legal entities, the proposed fine would be between 400,000 rubles - 1 million rubles (€5300- €13,000).

Andrei Babushkin, the chairman of the Russian Civil Rights Committee, said the proposed bills did not do enough differentiate between a simple mistake and malicious intent.

"When we say that for this mistake we will put you in prison; for this mistake we will fine you; for this mistake we will make sure you leave this world, it creates a repressive attitude in society," Babushkin told Euronews.

"People will turn out to be intimidated, frightened, afraid to open their mouths, and afraid to show their position."

"Why? Because any badly written law can be interpreted very broadly."

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