A number of federal laws have been amended recently to address inappropriate and harmful website content available in Russian, such as websites providing details on how to commit suicide, prepare illegal drugs and naming places where drugs can be purchased, or which include images featuring the sexual abuse of children, and sites that solicit children for pornography (Offensive Material). Site owners will be required to shut down websites containing Offensive Material and in cases where this is not possible, internet providers will be responsible for blocking access to the offensive sites.
On July 28, 2012, Federal Law No.139 - FZ “On Introducing Amendments to the Federal Law “On the Protection of Children Against Information that Harms Their Health and Development” and Other Legislative Acts of the Russian Federation” (the Law on Amendments) came into force.1 The Law on Amendments introduced a number of changes including:
- Creating a unified register of domain names (Register), which would include internet sites with Offensive Material and information prohibited in the Russian Federation, such as information on extremism or terrorism, etc.;
- Introducing five categories for rating website content, limiting access for minors to inappropriate information. The categories are separated by age ranges for children (a) under 6 years old, (b) over 6, (c) over 12, (d) over 16, and (e) over 18 (i.e. prohibited for children). Content producers or distributors are required to clearly mark their content with the appropriate age category logo; and
- Provisions for expert opinions to rate informational content have been clarified and expanded.
The Procedure for Including a Website Into the Register
In order to be blocked, a website must first be on the Register. The Law on Amendments outlines two ways for getting a website on the Register (a) by a decision of the federal service that controls and supervises mass information, mass communications, information technologies and networks in relation to a certain website spreading harmful information and/or (b) by a court decision.
Once the website is on the Register, the hosting operator must inform the owner of the site that it must remove the offensive page from the website within 24 hours after the Register operator has notified the hosting provider regarding the offensive site. Within 24 hours after receiving this notification from the hosting provider, the owner of the website must delete the offensive page. If the notified owner of an offensive site does not delete the offensive page within 24 hours of being so notified, the hosting provider must block access to it.
If the above actions required from the hosting provider or the owner of the website are not performed, the web address of the site with harmful information will be included on the Register. Within 24 hours of being included on the Register, the hosting provider of the website will be obliged to restrict access to the website. The decision to include a website on the Register may be appealed in court within three months.
A website on the Register can be removed from the list on the basis of (a) a court decision or (b) an application from the internet provider, hosting provider or owner of the website, provided that the harmful information has been removed. Once approved for removal, the website should be removed from the Register within three days.
The Law on Amendments was adopted to address the increasing number of websites with prohibited content and to limit the availability of such sites to children. However, there is a certain level of ambiguity as to the practical implementation of the Law on Amendments, which should be clarified during the implementation of the amendments.