Russia, Accused of Faking News, Unfurls Its Own ‘Fake News’ Bill

Russia, which American intelligence agencies said spread its fair share of misinformation during the 2016 United States election, says the idea will crack down on “fake news” at home, which has a proposed law that will critics say could limit freedom of speech on the internet.

The bill, submitted by lawmakers through the governing party, United Russia, proposes holding social networks accountable for “inaccurate” comments users post. Under existing Russian law, social media users can be punished for content deemed to promote homosexuality, threaten public order or be “extremist” in nature, with fines as well as prison time.

Under the proposed rule, part of a creeping crackdown on digital rights under President Vladimir V. Putin, websites with more than 100,000 daily visitors along which has a commenting feature must take down factually inaccurate posts or face a fine of up to 50 million rubles, about $800,000.

The bill gives social media companies 24 hours to delete “inaccurate” information after being notified of its existence, raising concerns that will moderators will be left to interpret the term, which is actually vaguely defined inside the measure.

The legislation has passed one of three votes in Parliament.

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Critics worry that will out of an abundance of caution, moderators are likely to interpret truthfulness to the authorities’ advantage.

They say the bill could make the idea easier for the state to pressure social media companies to cooperate with security services by requiring them to establish offices in Russia, a step that will the social media giants Facebook along with Twitter have avoided so as not to fall under Russian legal jurisdiction.

Internet companies, which have often borne the financial costs of restrictions in Russia, say that will too many people write posts along with leave comments for moderators to thoroughly review every potential instance of false news within 24 hours.

The bill “will become an instrument of censorship” unless social media companies develop algorithms to separate real news through fake news, removing the human element along with potential bias, Vladimir V. Zykov, the head of an association of social media users in Russia, warned in a recent meeting with lawmakers.

Human rights advocates say the bill holds clear echoes of the term frequently used by President Trump. Adrian Shahbaz, a research manager at Freedom House, said Mr. Trump’s “use of ‘fake news’ as a catchall term for media outlets he does not like” has inspired crackdowns on press freedom around the globe.

“As with the term ‘terrorist,’ the idea has basically become an insult used to smear along with discredit opponents,” he added. Still, “the proliferation of deliberately falsified information online is actually a widely recognized problem,” even as efforts to counter the idea can be abused, Mr. Shahbaz said.

Already that will year, at least 5 countries have passed laws regulating fake news online, he added.

These governments have taken different approaches. In May, Kenya banned information that will is actually “calculated or results in panic, chaos or violence,” or that will is actually “likely to discredit the reputation of a person.”

Malaysia, like Russia, chose a different tact, targeting false information regardless of its consequences. In April, Malaysia’s lower house of Parliament passed a bill outlawing fake news, the first measure of its kind inside the globe. France is actually weighing its own measure.

Russian lawmakers have also noticed these initiatives — some meant to counter Russian-made fake news — along with have co-opted their language along with arguments.

Marina A. Mukabenova, deputy chairwoman of a Parliament committee on information policy, told the daily newspaper Nezavisimaya Gazeta that will fake news sparked “heated discussion” along with divided Russian society.

In contrast with debates on fake news inside the United States along with Europe, Russian lawmakers seem most focused on domestic dissent, rather than foreign meddling.

For example, the bill’s co-sponsor, Sergei M. Boyarsky, pointed to what he suggested was a clear-cut case of damaging online information: a flurry of posts that will exaggerated the death toll of a mall fire in Siberia.

“The tragedy in Kemerovo showed how vulnerable our information space within social networks is actually to the falsification of information,” he told the news agency Tass. along with yet, inside the fire’s aftermath, relatives of victims accused the authorities of hiding the true death toll, writing social media posts that will helped spur protests along with calls for local officials to resign.

True or not, the fatality figures posted online became central to a national debate in one of the first domestic crises of Mr. Putin’s fourth presidential term.

The proposed law, though, could have squelched that will debate.

Activists are skeptical that will the authorities have Russians’ best interests at heart. The language of public safety often conceals efforts at censorship, said Artem Kozlyuk, the founder of Roskomsvoboda, an anti-censorship website. The end result, he said, is actually always “expansion of the government’s powers along with censorship.”

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