Imagine a world where you couldn’t blog about whatever you wanted, where what you read on the Internet was tightly controlled by the government, and where there was a general feeling in the air that whatever you did online was being closely watched.
China has been intent for years on censoring the Internet, having banned all major Western online social media sites including Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Google. Internet censorship has been gaining steam in countries like Turkey and Pakistan, too. And now it seems Russia, led by President Vladimir Putin, is looking to follow suit.
Widely known as the “bloggers law,” a new Russian law stipulates that any site with more than 3,000 visitors daily will be deemed a media outlet like a newspaper or magazine, and will be responsible for the accuracy of what it publishes, and will be forced to register with the government. It will also become illegal for bloggers to remain anonymous online.
Of course, many questions remain, like how Russia plans to actually regulate this. When the law is enforced on August 1, punishment for not adhering to it could involve fines that can reach $142,000, or the temporary closing of the blog.
To be sure, the law seems intent on mostly cracking down on politically-minded bloggers, but it’s still a major hitch for Russia’s active blogging community in general, some of which have become major global Internet stars in recent years, particularly in the fashion sphere.
The new law also opens the door for future Internet censorship in Russia, which could have a wider impact. “It is part of the general campaign to shut down the Internet in Russia,” Anton Nossik, a online media figure in Russia, told The New York Times.
One of Russia’s best known fashion bloggers Miroslava Duma, the street style star behind Russian fashion and lifestyle site Buro 24/7, reflected on Russia’s difficult history to Style.com in 2012, saying: “Look at the history—we had cultural stagnation for like, 75 years. And in the Soviet Union, it really was, you had to wait outside in the cold to buy toilet paper. That scene in Moscow on the Hudson, that was a real thing.”
Unfortunately, this anti-blogging law appears to be another setback, and one that could stagnate some of Russia’s most creative and intelligent voices.