Staunton, April 7 – The spate of repressive new legislation being proposed in the Russian Duma this week is not only far more Orwellian than even the notorious Yarovaya Package of last year but the sweep and speed of these new measures almost certainly will generate a backlash against the Kremlin, Pavel Gladkov says.
“In fact,” the Moscow commentator writes, the legislation being proposed “bans almost everything” and creates a situation in which “absolutely everyone who is brave enough to criticize the authorities” can be charged, brought to trial and fined -- or worse (kasparov.ru/material.php?id=58E6A3C5C0BD9).
The proposed law bears the superficially innocent title, “on the legal regulation of the activity of social networks,” but “as is typical” for Russia, its intention is anything but good. One of its provisions as has already attracted attention bans participation in online social networks of anyone under 14, the age group least affected by television and most independent in thinking.
To enforce that, the new legislation requires that individuals register using their passports. Those who don’t or who engage in deception will face “draconian fines.” But what is more important is this: “the very use of accounts on the basis of passports will increase self-censorship among the rest of the users of social networks.”
More serious still, the measure “’prohibits informing citizens about unsanctioned assemblies and meetings, the distribution of information about measures that the authorities haven’t approved of and the publication of correspondence with other social network users without their agreement.’”
That means, Gladkov continues, that “according to this legislation, anyone who writes about an unsanctioned meeting [of any kind, including strikes and local demos] is subject to being blocked and paying a fine, and if that doesn’t work of falling under a specific paragraph of the law.”
The goal of this draft legislation is “simple: to secure in the Internet the very same information vacuum which [the authorities have already achieved] on television.” If it passes – and the measure seems certain to given who is supporting it – the law will go into force on January 1 next year, right before the presidential elections.
The measure also bans “political advertising” on the Internet. It isn’t clear how this will be defined, but it is clear that this will be done in all cases “in order to block posts in the style of ‘I am going to vote for Navalny.’”
Gladkov suggests that the next step in the consideration of the measure will be to call for its slight modification, a process that will leave some convinced that they should accept what the powers that be are planning because it could have been worse. But with time, such softenings have become less and the introduction of harsh restrictions more.
Then the process will begin again but from a new and worse foundation. That is what happened in the case of the Yarovaya package; and it is what is likely to happen again. But given the increasing self-confidence of the powers that they can get away with anything, they may this time around move too fast.
That creates the possibility that they won’t kill the frog by bringing the water slowly to a boil but rather cause the frog to jump out of the water because he finds it too hot. If the frog – or in this case, the Russian people, respond by jumping out of the situation, that will be another problem, Gladkov says, but “one for the authorities and not for us.”